Chapter 343. End of the Challenge

Kang Oh's method of hunting the Death Eagles, or luring them into the harpoon trap, proved to be extremely effective. But it wasn't perfect; there was no guarantee that it'd work every single time. 

Sometimes, the Death Eagles would realize that it was a trap and return to their nests. Kang Oh tried luring them in a few more times, but they wouldn't fall for it. 

'Oh well.'

He had no choice but to fight them head-on.

"Tasha!"

Kang Oh transformed into the Red Demon, rose into the air, and fought the giant-winged Death Eagles in the sky. Since he could only fly for so long, Kang Oh would use Darkness Chain when his time was up and hop from eagle to eagle.

"Uhaht!"

To an outsider, it would look like Kang Oh was performing extremely dangerous stunts. They wouldn't be wrong. However, he couldn't take down the Death Eagles without taking this kind of risk.

Stab!

Kang Oh clung onto a Death Eagle and aimed at its wings. If he took out its wings, then it would plummet to the ground and take a huge amount of damage.

"Haa, haa!"

Of course, making a monster as powerful as a Death Eagle fall to the ground wasn't as easy as it sounded. Moreover, Death Eagles were capable of flying with only one good wing, so he needed to damage both of them. 

When he fought wyverns in the past, Kang Oh had done something similar, but it was about three or four times harder to get the Death Eagles to fall.

Even so, Kang Oh could it! 

"Die!"

The Death Eagles began to fall one by one. Of course, Kang Oh didn't remain unscathed. There was no way it'd be easy to fight off the Death Eagles, which were renowned for their high combat ability and flight! 


[Warning: HP is below 20%.]

[Restore your HP!]


His HP was quickly depleted!

"Uhaaahk!"

He somehow managed to maintain his remaining HP while moving across the Death Eagles and stubbornly swinging his sword.

The smallest mistake would result in a game over! If the Death Eagles landed a solid hit or he fell to the ground, he'd die. 

This extreme life-or-death situation maxed out his concentration. He didn't make a single mistake.

Ultimately...

Kang Oh stood amidst black feathers and sprawled eagle corpses. Victory was his!


[Warning: 5% HP remaining.]

[Please restore your HP!]


Kang Oh pulled a health potion from his belt. However, this was his last one.

"Tch."

He'd definitely bought enough health potions before entering the Tower of Trials. Where had they all gone?

Kang Oh didn't even use them most of the time, thinking they were a waste of money. However, he was forced to drink health potions here. That's just how high the difficulty level was.

Gulp.

He drank his last health potion and then headed for another group of eagles.

Would he be able to clear this floor? And if he did, how far would he manage to go?

* * *

"It's over," Yoon Mi said.

The competition was indeed over. She saw the last remaining contestant use a return scroll.

"Tell our contestants that we'll have a shoot in three days," Jin Cheol said.

"Yes."

First Hunter's production crew immediately scheduled the shoot. They would announce the winner, reward them, and reveal the next monster there. 

Three days later...

Seong Gook and the contestants were inside the brightly lit studio.

"Hello, viewers! My name is Seong Gook. As always, our hunters are here with us today!" Seong Gook pointed at the contestants.

Jae Woo's face was covered by a helmet from the nose up. Marco was still good-looking, while Strong Punch was as intimidating as ever, despite how polite he was. Lastly, Snow Flower was completely dolled up, yet gave off a cool impression. 

"Our hunters went up the Tower of Trials this time. Whoever got the highest will win a prize of 200 million won ($200,000 USD). Did you all make it very far?"

Their reactions varied. Marco looked extremely confident, and Strong Punch also smiled faintly. Snow Flower was expressionless, but Seong Gook noticed the creases in her forehead. Jae Woo didn't really react. His face was half covered by the helmet, and his lips were, as always, set in a thin line.

"Based on your expressions, it looks like Mr. Marco will be 1st," Seong Gook said.

"I did my best, and I believe I had a good showing," Marco replied confidently.

"Now, let's see! Did Mr. Marco... win? I'm sure many of you are curious how this challenge played out. I am too. So let's not beat around the bush and reveal the results!"

Seong Gook kept the show moving along.

"Please take a look at the screen."

The huge monitor turned on.

"Let's start with last place. It's none other than Ms. Snow Flower."

Snow Flower appeared on the screen with a '49th Floor - Clear' next to her name. She had failed to defeat the 50th floor boss, the Doppelganger.

"Aah. People had such high hopes for Ms. Snow Flower, since she killed the Spider Queen, Benolov. Unfortunately, she ended in last place." Seong Gook groaned, and Snow Flower slightly bit her lip.

"What happened, Ms. Snow Flower?"

"I wasn't good enough. That's all," Snow Flower curtly replied.

"Mm. There are still two more opportunities for you to win! Good luck!" Seong Gook clenched his fist. "Then let's take a look at 3rd place. In 3rd place, we have..."

A new name appeared on the TV.

"Sword Mercenaries' Strong Punch!"

"Huh?" Strong Punch looked shocked.

'I'm third?' He hadn't expected this at all. That didn't make any sense. He'd cleared the 56th floor, after all.

He'd even managed to surpass the Mercenary King's previous record; when he was still a Towergoer, the Mercenary King had gotten to the 55th floor. Of course, the Mercenary King had set this record a month ago.

Anyhow, he'd gotten to the 57th floor. There, he'd struggled against Giants that were over level 500, and was forced to retreat.

'And I'm still third?' Strong Punch stared at Marco and Kang Oh. 'How far did they get?', his gaze seemingly said. 

"Ah, that's quite unfortunate," Seong Gook said.

"Excuse me?"

'What do you mean?'

"You and 1st place were very close. It was the difference of a single floor."

"So first place cleared the 57th floor and reached the 58th floor."

"That's right."

"Who is it?" Strong Punch instinctively asked.

"Who will be awarded 200 million won? Will it be Mr. Kang Oh or Mr. Marco? I'm sure you're all curious by now. The 1st place winner is..." Seong Gook let it stew, and everyone waited for him to reveal the results.

"1st place is none other than..." He exaggeratingly pointed at one of the contestants.

Pop!

It sounded like firecrackers had gone off, and then Seong Gook's voice rang out.

"Blue Sky's Great Explorer, Mr. Marco!"

"Yeah!" Marco happily clenched both his fists, stood up, and raised his arms into the air.

"Mr. Marco and his teammates overcame the giant, complex mazes, defeated the 57th floor Giants, and reached the 58th floor. A truly amazing feat," Seong Gook said. 

Clap, clap, clap!

Everyone began applauding him. 

"However, we have another surprise for you. You're not the only one who achieved this tremendous feat!"

For a second there, Marco didn't understand what he was saying. 'What are you talking about?'

Seong Gook continued, "I would expect nothing less from the Numbers! The Predator! Mr. Kang Oh cleared the 57th floor by himself, and also reached the 58th floor!"

Then, Marco turned his head and stared at Kang Oh. 'Y-You too?'

"Tch." Once everyone stared at him, Kang Oh clicked his tongue. 'I should've gone up another floor.'

Their records were the same. In other words, they were both in first place. Obviously, the reward would be divided in half. That didn't feel right. He should've taken it all for himself!

But it couldn't be helped. He'd managed to kill the 57th floor's Giants, and then moved onto the 58th floor. Once he was there, however, he faced Giants made of diamond.

They were huge, had immense physical strength, and had defense that rivaled Teyno's. Thus, he tried to kill them using Ubist, which could ignore a monster's defense, but he ultimately failed. It would've been different had he been able to use Gluttony...

"The third reward will be split between Mr. Kang Oh and Mr. Marco!" Seong Gook declared.

As always, Park Jin Cheol came out with two 007 bags filled with money.

"Good job. As expected of Blue Sky. It was amazing to see you clear those mazes. Please work hard in the remaining challenges too," Jin Cheol passed Marco the money bag and said.

Marco looked disappointed, as he could somehow feel how much lighter the bag was than normal.

Then, Jin Cheol approached Jae Woo.

"This is your second time winning. As expected of you, Mr. Kang Oh." He gave him a thumbs up with his off-hand.

"100 million won ($100,000 USD), right?"

"Yes, that's right."

"Tch." Jae Woo clicked his tongue in disappointment. 

"You still have two more chances." Jin Cheol smiled.

Jae Woo nodded his head and accepted the bag.

"We have bodyguards on standby. You also have a ride waiting for you. Please use them if you wish."

Jin Cheol introduced the bodyguards that were off to the side. With this, the award ceremony had come to an end. 

"Now then, let's speak with Mr. Marco and Mr. Kang Oh, who both won the 1st place prize."

Seong Gook began asking Marco question after question, and Marco answered each question earnestly without losing the smile on his handsome face.

"Was the hardest opponent you faced the 58th floor Diamond Giants?"

"No. We just didn't have enough time to fight the Diamond Giants. I feel like the Death Eagles were actually harder to beat than the upper floor giants. They kept bombarding us from above while we went through the maze."

On the contrary, Kang Oh's responses weren't very sincere.

"What monster was the hardest for you?"

"The Diamond Giant."

"Why is that?"

"They wouldn't go down no matter how many times I hit them."

"How did you prepare for the Tower of Trials?"

"The same as always."

But everyone just accepted it, assuming it was just his personality.

"Understood, Mr. Kang Oh. Thank you for your insincere comments. With this, we're done discussing the Tower of Trials. And now it's time to..."

Seong Gook waited, and then said, "Reveal the fourth monster. Everyone, please take a look at the screen!"

Drum roll!

The monitor showed a video that the production crew had prepared, accompanied by a strong beat. It showed a bizarre, spooky forest filled with dead, dried out trees. The mist shrouded the forest underneath the light of the moon, which only made it spookier. 

"Hurry up!"

"Heok, heok!"

People rushed out of the deep darkness and thick mist. It looked like something was chasing them.

Then, something pounced on them. It was a beast with shimmering silver fur. The beast was about 3 meters large and looked like a wolf, but its legs were much longer than the average wolf, and its mouth was smaller too. 

"Shit!"

They stopped running and pointed their weapons at the beast. However, the wolf instantly disappeared from sight.

A short while later...

"Keheok!"

"Ugh!"

Swish, swish.

It seemed like something had passed them, but it couldn't be seen by the naked eye. However, red shards of light burst from the players' bodies and they died.

"Diak," Kang Oh softly muttered. 

Their next opponent was Swift Diak, considered to be the fastest beast in all of Arth. 

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