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Chapter 259 - Growth (9)

Second Life Ranker
     Team: HH, thursdays, Yahiko (1/12)

    “I’m telling you this ahead of time, but you never asked for anything other than setting up a meeting. So don’t complain to me if the meeting doesn’t go well.”

    Atran drew the line first. The meeting with By the Table was difficult to set, and it took a long time for him to hear an answer.

    He had thought he failed, but he suddenly received a positive response.

    Atran was pretty surprised. By the Table was a group surrounded by secrecy from the world.

    They should’ve rejected the request of a player who wasn’t even a ranker, but they had accepted it.

    Atran knew that this was also a chance for him.

    It was a great honor and opportunity to contact By the Table as an ordinary merchant.

    Rumors would spread, and the name of the merchant who had connected them would be known by more people.

    However, he was worried about what Yeon-woo would do if things didn’t go well. Atran was scared of Yeon-woo ever since he saw how the Red Dragon was crushed.

    Yeon-woo just waved his hand as if telling Atran to get on with it.

    Atran held in the sigh trying to escape his lips and pulled out a crystal from a subspace.

    Hwak!

    After he quietly took a few steps back, the crystal shattered, and a blue light was emitted. It was an artifact that stated the other side’s meaning that only a single meeting was enough. It scattered in a whirlpool.

    The scene around the two changed.

    They were in a forest. It felt like there was really a fresh breeze coming their way within this illusion. Atran blankly looked around.

    On the other hand, Yeon-woo was calm. He was pretty used to it now.

    ‘An Imaginary World.’

    It was similar to the Imaginary World that Brahm had used in the Demons’ Forest. But still, creating a barrier like this with just a single crystal was incredible.

    All kinds of animals gathered around the rock Yeon-woo was sitting on. Different varieties of birds flew above him, and there were foxes and deer on the ground.

    They weren’t normal animals. They either had a magical aura coming from them or were a large size. The Imaginary World was filled with beings that were hard to find even on the 11th floor stage.

    The trees split as the ground shook, and gigantic shadows appeared.

    A large wolf that looked to be bigger than 5 meters at a single glance was examining Yeon-woo from between the trees.

    It was a Legendary Beast with white fur, a White Wolf. There was a girl sitting criss-cross on its head.

    Thump—

    『Wow. It’s so pretty.』

    『A White Wolf. I haven’t seen one in a while.』

    Nike and Nemesis, who had been sleeping inside the Philosopher’s Stone, woke up to mutter to themselves. The White Wolf was as formidable as the Four Legendary Beasts. It was similar to Anatasia’s Gumiho, which Yeon-woo saw in the entertainment district.

    The White World laughed in a low tone like it read Nike and Nemesis’s thoughts.

    The girl stroked the White Wolf’s head. She had reddish-brown shoulder-length hair. However, she was wearing a wooden mask, so it was hard to see her face. Her deep eyes were striking.

    Atran gasped subconsciously when he saw this. He thought a ‘Weed’ or a ‘Wildflower’ would come, but the one who came was someone who was incomparable to those beings.

    ‘F-Freesia!’

    The master of By the Table herself had arrived.

    Freesia turned her head their way.

    Even though her face was covered by a wooden mask, her intense eyes were clearly regarding Atran. She didn’t say anything, but Atran could tell what she meant.

    Don’t say anything.

    Atran nodded his head with his mouth shut. He calmed his thumping heart down. It seemed like Freesia didn’t want Yeon-woo to know her identity.

    Atran was curious why the master had come herself. She didn’t like going outside. She was surrounded by more secrecy than By the Table.

    Atran quietly watched the two. His thumping heart didn’t calm down. Just when he thought he was fine, Yeon-woo made his heart skip a beat again.

    “I didn’t know the master of By the Table herself would come.”

    Atran’s body stiffened. He didn’t think that Yeon-woo would recognize Freesia.

    Freesia was silent for a moment as well. She narrowed her eyes at Yeon-woo. Even though she was definitely a hologram, Yeon-woo felt like she was digging into him. It was a gaze that was similar to that of the Martial King and the Psychic Medium. It was the gaze that differentiated between foes and friends.

    Then, Freesia jumped down from the White Wolf’s head and landed on the ground. She didn’t make any sound because of the soft grass.

    『Step back for a while.』

    Koo—

    The White Wolf rubbed his head in Freesia’s arms and slowly stepped back.

    He continued to look where they were from where he was with a stiff face, thinking that Yeon-woo would try to injure his owner.

    『Nice to meet you. You wanted to meet us?』

    Freesia opened her mouth with a polite bow. She was probably curious how Yeon-woo knew about her, but she didn’t say anything, like all she had to do was fulfill her goal for coming here.

    ‘She’s saying that she can figure out how I know whenever she wants. That’s the master, I see. It’s hard to read her mind.’

    Yeon-woo had a mask on like Freesia did, so it was hard to read his expression as well.

    Most exchanges with By the Table were done anonymously. When they had to meet, they kept their identities hidden with masks. Only their leader, Freesia, knew the identities of the members.

    Obviously, Freesia’s identity was a secret as well. All that was known about her was that she almost never left the Imaginary World and that she cherished magical animals.

    Even the name Freesia might’ve been fake. She knew that everyone was curious about her but never revealed herself.

    I only found out who she was later, but she was someone who was hard to talk to ever since I met her. She always replied coldly to any jokes I made.

    What should I do to melt this ice princess ahjumma? [TN: Ahjumma means middle-aged woman.]

    Jeong-woo first came to know By the Table when he was preparing to challenge the 50th floor.

    By the Table showed an interest in sponsoring Arthia.

    His brother had accepted this readily. There were a lot of cases when unions sponsored famous clans to spread their name and took a part of the subjugation rewards.

    Arthia had already been sponsored by several unions at that point, so he thought that By the Table was just an ordinary union like the rest of them.

    However, the moment that their sponsorship funds rose to an amount that most unions couldn’t even dream of, he realized that By the Table wasn’t normal.

    That was actually when Arthia really began to spread its wings.

    With the funds from By the Table, they were able to buy artifacts they couldn’t before and restructure their finances.

    Then, he learned that the person who had come to offer their sponsorship was their leader.

    The members had been curious then. Why were they supporting them? Some unions requested as much as they sponsored, so there was occasionally a fight. However, By the Table didn’t do anything like that. They didn’t have any requests, as if they just wanted Arthia to focus on climbing the floors.

    ‘Until Arthia collapsed.’

    Even when only a shadow of the old Arthia was left, By the Table had been there.

    They ended their sponsorship when his brother had been preparing to fight to his last battle.

    In a way, they had left when he needed them the most, but his brother was still grateful to them. They had stayed until the end when his lover and comrades had left.

    I couldn’t discover the goal of By the Table even until the end. However, I was sure that there was a common occurrence whenever Freesia appeared.

    King.

    She appeared when she determined that there was a ruler of the Tower or someone who could occupy that position.

    Only those who were at the level of the Nine Kings knew Freesia.

    There was only one reason why Freesia had shown up here.

    ‘Like Jeong-woo, she judged me highly.’

    Yeon-woo thought that even if he hadn’t approached them first, By the Table would’ve contacted him someday. However, that was probably going to be when he was near the 50th floor like Arthia.

    That was fine if he was planning on solo playing until then, but since he decided to create a clan, he desperately needed their help.

    Also, it was because he was grateful to see the person who had saved his brother’s life.

    Anyways, in the end, the reason why Yeon-woo had summoned By the Table here was simple.

    Sponsorship.

    “Yes.”

    『Can I ask why?』

    “I’m planning on establishing a clan. I heard rumors that By the Table sponsors a few clans.”

    『Are you saying you want your new clan to be a part of that?』

    “If possible.”

    『Do you know how we decide who to sponsor?』

    “I heard you look for them yourselves.”

    『That’s correct. There are some people who contact us like this. For most of them…….』

    “You reject them.”

    Freesia nodded.

    『Then you must know our answer.』

    “Is that so? I suppose nothing can be done. Thank you for meeting with me.”

    Yeon-woo nonchalantly nodded his head like he expected this and slowly stood up. Freesia’s eyes crinkled at his sudden actions.

    『What are you doing?』

    This time, Yeon-woo tilted his head like he didn’t understand.

    “I suggested it, and you rejected me, right? Then I think we’re done now.”

    『…….』

    Freesia gazed at Yeon-woo with still eyes. She couldn’t tell what Yeon-woo was thinking. Most people would try to convince her or ask her to look over the proposal at least. Was he thinking that she might suddenly become interested if he acted like this?

    However, the Yeon-woo that Freesia had investigated wasn’t someone that simple.

    His image as the Hoarder was so violent and evil that players described him as a dhole starved for blood.

    Freesia thought differently.

    Said badly, he was violent, but if said nicely, it meant he knew to wait. He had the determination of snatching up his prey at the appropriate timing. He knew when to leave and enter, and his judgment was deep.

    At the same time, he had rapid growth and the One-horned tribe backing him up.

    She judged that he wouldn’t do childish games like this. She had also come here to see what kind of person he was, so Freesia decided to take a step back.

    『We can still talk for a little longer. Right?』

    Freesia tossed the question, and Yeon-woo quietly sat down.

    His eyes beyond his mask were as hard to read as her poker face.

    However, Yeon-woo only wanted something simple.

    It was nice if things went well, but nothing could be done if they didn’t. What Yeon-woo wanted was a fair and reasonable contract with By the Table. Even if he wanted a sponsorship, he had no intention of being controlled by them. He was planning on paying them back for what he received.

    And if it was the leader of By the Table, he thought she would know about the path he was trying to take as well.

    If she was looking for a king, there was no reason for her to let him go.

    He was correct.

    ‘Jeong-woo said she was looking for something among people who are kings. He was right.’

    Yeon-woo gazed at Freesia’s eyes.

    『I’ll ask a few questions』

    “Please go ahead.”

    『I heard you received a few of the Summer Queen’s storage rooms. Why are you asking us to sponsor you when you have all that money?』

    Yeon-woo inwardly clicked his tongue. He hadn’t told even the Phante siblings that he received Intrenian as a reward. It was because he thought nothing good would come out of people knowing.

    The inheritance of the Summer Queen. There would definitely be an astronomical amount of money left in a storage room of a Draconic species, so people would be interested.

    However, Freesia was asking like it was obvious. That was how well-connected By the Table was.

    Yeon-woo nodded his head, not planning on hiding it.

    “I don’t have it.”

    It was unexpected. Freesia’s eyes widened.

    『……What.』

    “I already used it all.”

    『……!』

    Her widened eyes became even bigger. It was the first change in emotion Freesia showed. That was how shocking what Yeon-woo said was. He had already used the Summer Queen’s inheritance? In less than a year?

    “I sold everything inside Intrenian other than what I needed, and I spent all that money already as well.”

    He could hear someone gasping behind him. Freesia turned to look. Atran was shaking while muttering ‘Crazy bastard!’ to himself.

    He had sold everything secretly on the black market in Yeon-woo’s place, so he knew how much Yeon-woo had.

    He didn’t know how much exactly, but it was probably enough for a large clan to use for several years. He couldn’t imagine where Yeon-woo had used all of that.

    However, the money that would’ve been enough for others wasn’t enough for Yeon-woo.

    To create a dungeon, restore the Outer Space, restructure a large scale lab, and make his own smithy, he didn’t have enough.

    『Hoho. Ho!』

    Freesia burst out laughing. Atran was surprised once more. He had never seen the leader laugh either.

    Then, the laughter suddenly stopped. Her eyes were as cunning as a snake. She opened her mouth.

    『It seems you spend as much as you use you want to swallow up.』

    Freesia couldn’t help but be amazed at how Yeon-woo had spent such a large amount of money, even for By the Table.

    She saw what Yeon-woo was after. The Tower. Yeon-woo was trying to swallow this world. He was very avaricious.

    Avarice without consumption stopped at just greed, but with consumption, it became ambition.

    Freesia like that avarice.

    She didn’t know if he would become a moth drawn to a flame or a spider, but whatever happened, he was definitely going to become something.

    『And the amount you need?』

    “The more the better. It’ll probably dry up soon.”

    『You’re saying you’ll use it like you use tap water.』

    Freesia laughed. It was a laugh that looked like both an ordinary laugh and a mocking laugh.

    『I can see what you’re trying to do without asking you. And the clan members? Have you chosen?』

    “I have a few people in mind.”

    『They’re not shallow, hm?』

    “If I was going to pick those people, I wouldn’t have used up all of the Summer Queen’s inheritance in the first place.”

    『Fine. We’ll sponsor you.』

    Freesia nodded her head firmly.

    『You can talk about the details with Atran.』

    Atran was surprised at the sudden mention. Freesia narrowed her eyes.

    『Why? Is it too much? If so, I won’t force you.』

    Atran quickly bowed on the floor.

    “N-No! Thank you for giving me this chance!”

    Freesia nodded her head. You couldn’t tell her no. She made the impossible possible.

    Yeon-woo tsked inwardly as he watched her.

    She was pretending to be calm on the outside, but she was an investor who took risks.

    She didn’t ask what he needed, details about the sponsorship, or anything else. She just handed everything over to Atran. It also meant that she was confident she could handle whatever scale he asked for.

    Was everyone at her level like that? He didn’t know how much she could handle. There was one word that came to his mind when he saw people like that.

    King.

    Freesia was someone who had the potential of a ruler/sovereign. She might’ve thought that to work with her, you needed to have the same qualifications as her.

    Yeon-woo was amused that he was acknowledged by her. At the very least, he wasn’t an older brother who lost to his little sibling.

    Swa—

    Just then, the light of Freesia’s form started to scatter.

    『It’s already time. Oh, before I go, let me say this.』

    Freesia spoke calmly with the eyes of an intellectual.

    『I’m your average investor. I don’t ever do things that will hurt me. Also, that’s how expensive my money is. So if you think that you can’t pay me back, even the interest…..』

    Freesia didn’t continue. She was telling him to figure it out on his own. He knew her wealth and connections, so Yeon-woo nodded his head.

    The White Wolf stood up. Freesia stroked the White Wolf’s head as she jumped on top of him. She was about to return in the direction she came from.

    Yeon-woo asked the last question.

    “Is Yul doing well?”

    『Yul?』

    The White Wolf stopped. Right before Freesia disappeared, she tilted her head as her eyes glittered.

    『Ah. That Furry. He’s doing well. Did you send him to the garden?』

    Freesia looked at Yeon-woo strangely. Then, she grinned, shaking her head.

    『This is my first time being tested whether or not we’re qualified to sponsor someone. However, I hope you don’t do things like this from now on so there aren’t any misunderstandings.』

    With that, it was over.

    Atran frantically looked back at Yeon-woo. He had become a ‘Weed’ of By the Table. It was an honor for a mysterious merchant, but he was still shocked. He was also filled with questions.

    “Yul? Who’s that?”

    He seemed to want to ask a lot of things, but Yeon-woo just shook his head and didn’t answer. Instead, he grinned under his mask.

    The child who hadn’t been able to do anything back in the Tutorial. The scared body who had his thorns raised. Yeon-woo still remembered how he said thanks and called him Hyung at the end.

    He had been curious about how he was doing, but he was able to hear news about him like this. It was a relief he seemed to be doing better than what he thought.

    * * *

    The 98th floor.

    The land of mystery that no player had approached. However, this was where the gods and demons lived.

    It was divided into two large regions, but it was split into countless Societies, so it could fall apart any minute.

    In Olympus, one of the larger Societies, Hermes was meeting his beautiful sister, Athena. However, Athena had a slightly stiff face unlike his easygoing one.

    “It seems like our foolish uncle has made the decision to kill that child.”

    Her voice was filled with annoyance. There were undertones of a deep disappointment. It was because of what their uncle, Poseidon, was trying to do.