Chapter 374

“I welcome Earl Gang Hyeonu to the imperial palace.” The guard protecting the door of the imperial palace welcomed Hyeonu.

“You worked hard today. I’ll be going in.” Hyeonu passed by the guard with a slight nod.

‘I’m here again.’ Hyeonu returned to the imperial palace. It was a place he didn’t want to visit. To be exact, he was reluctant to meet the emperor again because it wasn’t a very pleasant experience. In fact, this was one of the reasons why Hyeonu abandoned the quest. Hyeonu wandered through the imperial palace with the parchment paper in one hand and a map in the other.

‘Why is it so familiar?’

He was definitely going to the location the parchment was pointing to, yet the location was so familiar to him. Hyeonu knew this building and landscape. He always stopped by here when he visited the imperial palace. It was near the emperor’s palace where the emperor was located.

Hyeonu struggled to get rid of his rising anxiety and took a step forward. However, his uneasy feeling was never wrong. The building on the parchment was indeed the emperor’s palace where the emperor was located. Hyeonu’s expression distorted, but it was only for a moment. He pulled himself together again and carefully entered the interior of the emperor’s palace.

Walking through the long corridor several times slower than usual, Hyeonu hoped to find the entrance of Rondal before reaching the emperor. Nevertheless, it didn’t happen. No message appeared to Hyeonu as he walked through the corridor. Only colorful decorations filled his eyes.

“You’re back already? I thought it would take a fortnight... Have you improved your skills? Or did you get good companions?” The emperor questioned while staring at Hyeonu, who was bowing in front of him. Then the emperor made an invidious remark, “The time it takes for you to get to this place is longer and longer... Do you have a lover in the imperial palace? I want to know where you are spending that time.”

He just wanted to make fun of Hyeonu. Nevertheless, Hyeonu didn’t fall into the emperor’s pace and instead started to speak calmly, “Your Majesty’s order will be performed by adventurers aside from me.”

“So why have you come here today? I know you don’t really enjoy coming to the imperial palace.” The emperor’s words contained criticism.

Yet when the emperor opened his eyes and stared at Hyeonu, what his expression contained was interest.

“I have something to ask, Your Majesty.”

“Something to ask? Speak quickly.”

Upon receiving the emperor’s positive answer, Hyeonu quickly mentioned Rondal: “Do you know Rondal? It is a place similar to Senu, where you met me last time.”

“Rondal... You managed to find it. You are really amazing.” The emperor’s eyes flashed. Unlike his usual gaze, his eyes were now filled with strength. They shone intensely like the sun was trapped inside them.

“You know... where it is?” Hyeonu’s eyes widened after hearing the emperor’s words. They were very shocking words. The emperor didn’t know about Senu yet he knew about Rondal.

“Don’t worry. I am the only one who knows about it,” the emperor said. Then he called Hyeonu over with his finger. “Come here.”

Hyeonu carefully walked toward the throne where the emperor was sitting. Every step he climbed placed him under a pressure that tried to crush his body.

‘What is this?’

It was terrible. The feeling of his entire body being unable to move was like that of a fly caught in a spider web.

“What are you doing not coming up? Don’t you want to go to Rondal?”

Hearing the emperor’s teasing, Hyeonu gritted his teeth and forced his legs to move. It was very difficult for him to take just one step, and he climbed the stairs like a mountaineer climbing the Himalayas. When Hyeonu finally reached the throne, he let out a long breath, “Sigh...” 

‘It feels like I’ve worked out for four or five hours...’

Then he asked, “What am I doing here... Your Majesty?”

The emperor sitting on the throne was simply a madman. He either didn’t feel this pressure, or maybe he enjoyed it. In any case, he was a madman.

“It’s just a small thing. The magic circle to Rondal is engraved here.” The emperor pointed a finger to a decoration at the back of the throne.

There was a small groove in the center of the decoration, just like the one at Senu. It was a hole where he could insert the ring.

“Why is this on Your Majesty’s throne...?”

“I found it soon after I ascended the throne.”

“Perhaps...” Hyeonu noticed something strange in the emperor’s words. If it were an interesting thing, would the emperor really leave Rondal alone?

“Are you trying to ask me if I went inside?”

“Yes, Your Majesty.”

“What do you think I would’ve done?”

“If it is Your Majesty... I think you would’ve entered.”

The emperor nodded. It was as Hyeonu said. The emperor had entered and exited Rondal.

“As far as I know, there are restrictions on entry,” Hyeonu said.

“Do you believe that such a thing can stop me? The emperor of the empire can’t be stopped with just that,” the emperor answered very confidently as if he was saying something very natural.

‘Truly a monster...’ Hyeonu had no doubts anymore. There seemed to be nothing the emperor couldn’t do inside Arena.

“It is a pretty fun place. Earl, it will be a good experience for you,” the emperor remarked.

Hyeonu smiled at the emperor’s words and reached out for the decoration. Then a message window appeared in front of his eyes.


[Rondal’s Location 1/1]

[Would you like to enter Rondal, the advanced academy of the Luos Empire?]


“Your Majesty, I will enter Rondal.” Hyeonu bowed to the emperor once again and then entered Rondal. There was a meaningful smile on the emperor’s face as he looked at the place where Hyeonu disappeared.


***


While Hyeonu was visiting the imperial palace to find Rondal, the Balder Mountains were in the midst of a conflict between large guilds. The beginning of the conflict was the alliance. The alliance, which was bound by thin strings, couldn’t overcome the conflict and was on the verge of exploding. The starting point was when Yorishige of the Sakura Guild conveyed his intention of withdrawing from the alliance after hearing his guild member’s words.

Naturally, the other guild leaders objected to Yorishige’s intention to withdraw. It wasn't just a backlash. They even threatened him. However, Yorishige didn’t give in and maintained his intention to withdraw. No actual armed conflict took place though. No, it couldn’t happen.

This was because they received a piece of information. They heard that the elites of the Kowloon Guild, who were active in the East Continent, were currently flocking to Derek Castle. If it were just that, they wouldn’t have stopped fighting. The main reason was that Kowloon had a guild allied with them.

It was Mano. They were a large guild with an accomplished magician called Patrick and an outstanding paladin called Marco, and they were not weak. None of the guilds in the alliance were stronger than Mano. In particular, Kowloon and Mano seemed to have a good relationship. Their appearance on the stream looked very friendly. Unlike the alliance’s sandcastle, their relationship seemed more like a red brick house. The amount of experience they had was also overwhelming compared to that of the alliance.

First of all, the Kowloon Guild had richer experience than that of any guild in the alliance. Moreover, the alliance didn’t know it, but Kowloon even had a video of them from Hyeonu.

“This isn’t the time for us to fight. We must first give up the Sakura Guild.”

“In any case, their minds are set. It is useless no matter how much we try to persuade them. I’d rather think about how to stop Kowloon.”

Sun Lin and Carey shared their thoughts. Their cooperation was the strongest since it was an alliance made by the two of them.

“This is a gift before leaving the alliance. My guild member said that Alley Leader has given up on this quest,” Yorishige said, pouring oil on the alliance.

The purpose of the alliance was to stop Alley Leader, not Kowloon. If Alley Leader didn’t proceed with the quest, then the significance of the alliance’s existence would disappear. Yorishige disappeared after saying this. His words caused a huge storm and broke the alliance.

“There is no reason to unite when there is no Alley Leader.”

“Of course. Then isn’t everyone a competitor?”

Unity was only possible when there was a public enemy.


***


Hyeonu couldn’t hide his unhappy expression as he questioned the emperor, “Your Majesty, why did you follow me?”

The emperor followed Hyeonu into Rondal, where the unqualified couldn’t enter.

-It has been proven that you are a Senu graduate. Entering Rondal, the advanced academy of the Luos Empire.

This was the voice that entered Hyeonu’s ears when he entered Rondal. Even the emperor couldn’t have heard it.

‘This monster,’ Hyeonu thought.

Yet the emperor ignored Rondal’s rules using strength alone. He was really a monster outside the normal standards.

“You don’t need to worry. Just treat me as someone who isn’t here,” the emperor said, making himself a spectator. He couldn’t miss out on this fun. Unlike Senu, the emperor knew about Rondal, so he couldn’t help being interested.

"If you say so...” Hyeonu turned his head. He decided to ignore this person, just like the emperor said.

-Rondal consists of a total of 3 stages. If you can move the requirements of one stage, you can move onto the next one. Then let’s start with Stage 1.

The surroundings changed rapidly. There was a brief moment of darkness before the ordinary cave was transformed into a wide plains area. The horizon in the distance was visible, and a clear sky without a single cloud filled the world.

‘What is it this time?’ Hyeonu looked around calmly. He wasn’t nervous anymore. Rather, he was just curious about what would come out. Hyeonu’s specs were too high to be nervous.

‘Well, even if I fail, the emperor will rescue me.’

In the worst-case situation, the emperor could come out and help. It was a shallow calculation that the emperor considered him a loyal subject and a disciple of Lebron.

-Rondal is really only allowed for some people. There are no more low-level trials for you who have completed Laek and Senu. Rondal’s Stage 1 is to cope with a disaster. The given time is 8 hours.

[Time remaining - 7:59:59]

‘What is this?’ Hyeonu couldn’t understand the voice’s explanation at all. He didn’t know what he should do.

‘What disaster?’

“Your Majesty, do you perhaps know...?” Hyeonu asked the emperor. The emperor had experienced Rondal, so it was clear he knew what the first test was.

“Stage 1? It’s on the fairly hard side. Stage 2 is the easiest, and Stage 3 is the most difficult.” The emperor didn’t give the answer Hyeonu wanted. He just spoke comprehensively.

‘Who asked about that?’ Hyeonu’s expression distorted slightly.

“Of course, that isn’t the answer you want. Earl, you’re asking me what Stage 1 is, right?” 

“That’s right.”

The emperor used an exquisite push and pull to control Hyeonu’s mood. However, like the voice, he too spoke vaguely: “Stage 1 is literally a disaster. It is enough to be called a disaster.”

Hyeonu couldn’t understand and asked again, “What... disaster?”

“Isn't a lizard a disaster? It is one even if it hasn’t fully grown.”

‘A dragon!’ Hyeonu’s eyes widened again.

The disaster—its identity was a dragon.

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