Chapter 167 – Trace of Bokan (3)
The Heard Fortress Ruin town grew by the day. A castle wall grew taller each day as if it was a bamboo tree in growth. Of course, houses made out of logs and brick were erected beyond the castle walls.
They sprung up everywhere.
Amongst all of them, the most eye-catching building was the one built out of bricks. The construction of the building was almost completed. It was the Heard Fortress Ruin branch of the Subjugation Association. It was 5 stories high, and it was also the largest building in terms of width.
Moreover, it had the most Users within the building.
“Move it! Let me get some Quests!”
“Is there anyone willing to hunt with me? I'm looking for a Striker!”
“Hey! Over here! Look here! Over here!”
This was the only way station in the Black Continent, so of course, it had a lot of people. Moreover, when people gathered, a marketplace always popped up.
The Users here had all gone through their 2nd Advancement. Their Levels and Items would have brought admiring gazes to themselves if it was anywhere else, but here. It didn't work like that over here. There were too many monsters here with high levels and great items to be boastful.
Moreover, a real monster had appeared inside the town.
‘It's the Hahoe Mask.’
‘The Hahoe Mask really came.’
‘Since he came here, I'm guessing he is here for a Quest. I heard he crossed the Urugal mountain range again.’
‘If he suffered a Game Over, he would have been summoned here. There's no other reason why he would have crossed the Urugal mountain range.’
‘It was the same with the Immoral Prince episode, and the the Frozen Kingdom episode. We have to follow after the Hahoe Mask.’
The fact that he had arrived at the Heard Fortress Ruin town wasn't just spread to the Users. It was spread so far that people, who didn't play Warlord, was aware of this fact.
Moreover, the fact that the Hahoe Mask sought out the branch of the Subjugation Association meant that the he had business here.
The Hahoe Mask wasn't just a skilled User. He was like a magnet that pulled along the flow of Warlord.
The Subjugation Association was where one could receive a Quest. His appearance at this location meant that the Hahoe Mask was on a Quest. Of course, there was no way it was a normal Quest. When the Hahoe Mask entered the branch office of the Subjugation Association, he didn't stay on the first floor where the normal Quests were processed. A guard guided the Hahoe Mask upstairs, and the rumor of this incident started to spread. The expressions on the Users near the Subjugation Association changed.
NPC Diung was a young man with a face full of scars. The NPC was young yet he had scars. These two elements usually didn't go hand in hand with each other.
The NPC took out a pouch made out of rags.
“This is the Item I found recently.”
NPC Diung handed over the pouch to the User wearing the Hahoe Mask.
Hyrkan immediately opened the pouch, and he took out the item.
‘As expected, it is a Conch.’
The pouch held a Conch, which gave off a yellow gleam. It was metallic, and it was similar in size to the Wooden Conch he had found in the Ruins. Its shape was also similar. Therefore, it was easy to figure out how to operate the Golden Conch.
Hyrkan immediately pressed the Golden Conch to his ears.
Instead of the relaxing sounds of waves, a voice could be heard.
- My name is Bokan. I'm at a tomb. It is the grave of some unknown person, and I was able to witness the Power of Corruption here. This is why I'm leaving behind a record.
The voice sounded dry. It was hard to determine the age of the speaker by listening to its voice, and there were static included with the message. If he didn't concentrate, he wouldn't be able to differentiate between the voice and the background static.
At the same time, the message was short.
Hyrkan waited to hear more of story, but there was no followup message.
‘This game is really too much.’
Basically, that was all the information he would get.
It had introduced itself as Bokan. It had revealed where it was at by saying it was at a grave. Then it spoke about the result of its action by mentioning its sighting of the Power of Corruption.
‘I have to find the location using just this information?’
Hyrkan would have to find the trace of Bokan using this clue. When he arrived at a predetermined destination, the Golden Conch would give him a new clue. This was the most common way the Users progressed in a Quest within the Ruined Kingdom Episode.
‘So stingy. Couldn't they have been a little bit more free in giving out information?’
Hyrkan harbored a brief feeling of discontent, but he didn't let it progress any further. Nothing would change if he dwelled on his frustration. Hyrkan was well aware of this fact.
“So where did you find it?"
Anyways, the starting point would always be where the Item was found. He just had to find the next path from there.
“I found it at the Balos ruins.”
Balos ruins was the location discovered by the Stormhunters guild.
‘In the end, I have to head east?’
It seemed Hyrkan's fate was closely intertwined with the Stormhunters guild.
Hyrkan knew that the word, 'tomb', appeared a lot in the Ruined Kingdom. There were a lot of locations that started or ended with tomb. As the word indicated, the Ruined Kingdom had been a nation. During the kingdom's era of prosperity, kings and other important figures were buried in tombs, and these tombs were usually filled with Items.
Wouldn’t a tomb be called a ruin if it was big enough?
‘East.... It would be a jackpot if I find the King's Tomb.’
Of course, if the King's Tomb was found, it would be a jackpot for him. At the very least, he would be able to gain two scrolls of Legendary Rank Ancient Power. If he was lucky, he would be able obtain an amazing Item. Even if it was a lesser tomb, there should be multiple Items within it.
Of course, these tombs were difficult. If one found the tomb of a famous king, one would have to fight a monster that was as strong as the Boss Monster guarding the peak of the Urugal mountain range. An exciting clash against the guardians of the tombs would be waiting for the Users.
‘Let's look at this in a positive light.’
Hyrkan systematically listed the important facts. East would be preferable than going to the north or the south. Hyrkan and the Stormhunters guild could fight until their faces were red if they wanted to, but an excuse would be needed to start the feud. However, the Five Stars guild didn't need any pretext. They would try to kill Hyrkan on sight.
“Was there any other clues left behind.”
“None. This item was by itself in the middle of a room.”
“All right. Good job.”
Hyrkan was about to leave. Since he had nothing to gain here, why should he stay any longer?
Hyrkan was about to walk away when NPC Diung stopped him.
“In the near future, the Hiban kingdom will dispatch an order of knights here. I believe you deserve to know this, Hyrkan-nim. It'll happen in secret, so please don't tell anyone else about this.”
Hyrkan tilted his head.
The word, 'order of knights', wasn't a bad thing in itself.
The problem arose in Hyrkan's memories regarding the order of knights and the Ruined Kingdom. He knew what came out when these two elements were mixed.
“Which order of knights....”
“I cannot tell you any more than that. However, the Hiban kingdom decided this fallen kingdom needed a closer examination. They will be here on orders.”
“Thank you for informing me.”
“Then I'll pray for your success. Please find the whereabouts of our Archmage.”
After nodding his head, Hyrkan exited the room. However, Hyrkan's thoughts weren't filled with information regarding the Archmage Bokan.
‘Are the Steel Lion Knights heading this way? Was the Barbarian King event already triggered?’
Black Continent.... Before Hyrkan returned to the past, the Ruined Kingdom was called the Lost World, and several troops of knights had appeared there. Of course, they appeared for Quests and events. They would never appear randomly to take down a monster.
Moreover, the appearance of the Steel Lion Knights and the Barbarian King event was an integral part of the Ruined Kingdom episode.
It was akin to the great battle. The Steel Lion Knights would start to operate within the Black Continent with great success, and they would eventually awaken the Barbarian King. From that point on, the Users would have to fight against the Barbarian King. The Barbarian King had a special characteristic of being able use all monsters as vassals. Its power was selected to be akin to the Power of Corruption.
If things ended there, it wouldn't be a problem. The problem was the regions surrounding the Barbarian King. In the regions near the Boss monster, the Regeneration time and number changed.
Basically, the Barbarian King made all monsters its subordinates. To satisfy this setting, the nearby hunting grounds became empty as they gathered beneath the Barbarian King.
Basically, the Users, who frequently hunted in the Black Continent, would be forced to take down the Barbarian King.
At the time, Tobot Soft took a lot of heat as swear words automatically came out of the Users. However, the developers hid behind the excuse that they didn't have the ability to arbitrarily change the game. The AI made the decision on how the events developed in Warlord, and they no longer interfered with the system on the development side.
‘No way. The Barbarian King is suppose to come out at the latter stages of the Ruined Kingdom episode.’
When the Barbarian King was taken down, the Users find out why the Ruined Kingdom collapsed. Then there was the power left behind by the Ruined Kingdom. It was made, so the Users could avenge the Ruined Kingdom by fighting the beings that caused their collapse. This was when the beings that drove the Kingdom to ruins was revealed.
This was the starting point of the Dragon's Army episode.
‘There is no way that’ll occur.’
The Ruined Kingdom episode had just started, so there was no way the signs regarding the Dragon's Army would show up.
Hyrkan let out a bitter laugh as he lightly shook his head from side to side.
‘There is no way the high and mighty AI could made such a mistake.’
After descending the stairway, Hyrkan left the Subjugation Association.
A person didn't change. It didn't matter if a User was level 1, level 100 or level 200. In the end, Users were humans. In the end, the bad apple will continue to be a bad apple, and the cheaters will always cheat.
Of course, the schemers will continue to scheme.
When one continue to scheme, there would always be a day of reckoning.
“Let's do this!”
Five Users were about to pay the price for playing games.
“I purposefully moved in a circuitous route, and I passed by this location not too long ago. Look here. I clearly left behind this scratch when I walked past this tree."
He looked at the Users, who would be forced to pay a price.
“So you are trying to say you guys were coincidentally taking the same route as me. Stop lying.”
The User's name was Hyrkan, and his nickname was the Hahoe Mask.
We was the most famous User in Warlord, and one must never make an enemy out of him.
“What is your affiliation? V&V? Big Smiles?"
These five Users had been tailing after the Hahoe Mask.
It happened quite often. When a User received an important Quest from the Subjugation Association, one basically had the spoon half way up to one's mouth. The one raising the spoon was the target, and if the owner of the Quest could be eliminated, the Quest Reward could be taken by someone else.
Then there were the Users, who interfered with the progress of an opponent's Quest.
Of course, the User suffering these kinds of schemes had the right to lash out.
The Hahoe Mask would be in the right even if he killed the five Users tailing him.
The five Users made the wise choice. If their opponent wasn't Hyrkan, this plan would have worked.
However, this was the Hahoe Mask. He controlled over 60 Skeletons, and a loose retreat wasn't a wise choice.
Before the five Users had been aware of it, the Skeleton Warriors had already created a perimeter around them. They blocked the Users from escaping.
The five Users had planned on simultaneously running in different directions. The five Users once again looked at Hyrkan.
Hyrkan met their gazes as he spoke.
“The five of you can fight against each other, and I'll let the last surviving User live.”
At his words, two of the five Users sneered at him. The other three members flipped their middle fingers towards Hyrkan.
Hyrkan smiled as he flicked his finger.
[The Hydra guild merged with the Fighters guild!]
[Hydra guild: "The Fighters guild is the strongest in terms of battle capability amongst the Underfoot guilds. We need them. They will supplement the part where the Hydra guild is weakest.”]
[Fighters guild: “We agreed to it the moment we received an offer from the Hyrdra guild. Our merge will create the best synergistic effect.”]
[This is the first instance where an Underfoot guild merged with one of the 30 great guilds. Is this the start of a new reorganization of the power structure?]
Many articles were being written with titles saying the Hydra guild had merged with the Fighters guild. The news was being spread fast.
While the news was spreading, Eric Gomes had turned off his smartphone and every other forms of communication he possessed. He was listening to music.
It was a habit he developed long ago when he worked on Wall Street. If he succeeded, he would hit the jackpot. If he failed, he would go bankrupt. He had made irrevocable decisions that could have led to either outcome, and when he made the decision, Eric Gomes cut himself off from the outside world. He realized that he could do nothing once he had the irrevocable decision.
It meant that the decision he had made recently was a decision in the same vein.
He always had thought about acquiring the Fighters guild. In truth, there wasn't much downside to the merge. The Fighters guild possessed Users with high combat ability. They would be able to fill Hyrdra's biggest need in one fell swoop.
Of course, the problem always came down to money. The Hyrdra guild wasn't the only ones, who had coveted the Fighters guild. In such a situation, there was no reason why the Fighters guild would lower their market value.
Basically, the acquisition had been an unreasonable bet. The Hydra guild had paid a heavy price.
‘Life is a funny thing. I can't believe I made a decision like this, because of the Hungry man.’
The impetus behind such a bold bet was the Hungry man, Toby Gwynn.
He had suddenly contacted Eric Gomes, and he divulged information that hadn't been released to the public.
When he heard the information, Eric Gomes understood the reasoning behind the actions taken by the Tobot Soft.
‘As always, success comes to those, who are prepared. The great success is reaped by those that are lucky.’
At the same time, Eric Gomes realized that he had no choice, but to stand with Toby Gwynn. The gains wanted by Toby Gwynn was in a similar direction to the gains wanted by Eric Gomes.
When he heard Toby Gwynn's story, he immediately purchased the Fighters guild. He needed to take the initiative.
‘I have to see the big picture especially in times like this.’
This was a lesson he had learned while working at Wall Street for 10 years. The further you were away from where money was being traded, the opportunity to make money also disappeared. The funny part was the fact even if one distanced oneself from the market where money flowed back and forth, this didn't mean the opportunity to lose money went away too.
‘So the problem becomes the Hahoe Mask again?’
According to the information given to him by Toby Gwynn, the biggest problem right now was the Hahoe Mask.
A person working outside the standard structure would eventually wreck the structure.
‘He told me such precious information, because he expects me to block people like the Hahoe Mask and the Stormhunters guild from rocking the boat too much.’
Toby Gwynn had given the Hyrdra guild information, because it would be profitable for the Hydra guild to keep the Hahoe Mask in check.
It was a really hard task.
However, Eric Gomes thought of it in simple terms.
‘If I look at the most recent events... There is a good possibility that the Hahoe Mask doesn't have a backer. Even if he had one, it isn't a big organization.’
In the past, he had thought the Hahoe Mask was backed by an organization that rivaled the 30 great guilds in power.
However, Eric Gomes recently started to have doubts about this assumption. If the Hahoe Mask had backers, the forces behind him should have started their operation already unless they were stupid. Moreover, if they refused to reveal their identity up to now, they probably would refuse to reveal their identity in the future.
Basically, Hahoe Mask was by himself. He was a Solo Player. He played this game by himself.
Eric Gomes calibrated his thoughts based on this assumption.
‘Warlord isn't a game one can solo. Up until now, the Hahoe Mask reaped the rewards by taking over tables that had already been set.’
In the Immoral Prince episode, it seemed as if the Hahoe Mask did everything by himself, but he had walked a road paved by countless number of dead Users. He only planted a flag on top of the peak.
Would the Hahoe Mask been able to stop the great battle by himself?
Even in the Argardo raid, could he have done it without the help from the Red Bulls guild?
In the recent Raid, he would have failed without the help of the Stormhunters guild. The Five Stars would have shut him down if he hadn’t had help.
This was the key point.
‘We tried to use the Hahoe Mask, and the Hahoe Mask used us instead. I have to give up on the idea of using the Hahoe Mask. If I do so, only the disrupters would be left around the Hahoe Mask. In the end, the Hahoe Mask will come against a wall.’
The Hahoe Mask wouldn't be able to do this alone.
‘If the Hahoe Mask is able to monopolize the content by himself...’
If he could do it without the help of others...
‘Then his destiny was already set in stone by god.’
At that point, a destiny like that couldn't be dodged.Previous Chapter Next Chapter