Chapter 428

‘I think there is only a little bit more left until the level-up...’

There was a reason why Hyeonu had Tang-E fight the orc. It was to get Tang-E to level up. Now he wasn’t far from level 300. Tang-E was currently level 299, and his third awakening was just around the corner. It might be different when dealing with NPCs. However, during times when they were exploring like earlier, Hyeonu could leave the battle to Tang-E.

‘It isn’t because I am too lazy.’

Unlike Hyeonu’s inner thoughts, his instincts were honest. His head was moving up and down lazily.

“Tang-E, how much is left?” Hyeonu asked when he saw Tang-E brush the dirt off his body.

“What do you mean, Master dude?” Tang-E complained in a discontented manner. He was only thinking about how Hyeonu had thrown him toward the orc, and his act had long since disappeared.

“The third awakening. Isn’t it almost time? Don’t you feel it?”

Hearing Hyeonu’s words, Tang-E’s facial expression changed. His mouth dropped open, and both his eyes widened. Then he ran toward Hyeonu.

“Are you looking out for me, Master dude?” Tang-E’s upset mood disappeared, and he was filled with gratitude.

“Of course, didn’t you see me taking care of you? So... let’s reach the third awakening.” Hyeonu stroked Tang-E’s head and smiled.

It seemed like the third awakening would proceed smoothly. Hyeonu’s expectations soon became a reality as Tang-E’s attitude changed in the battles that followed.

‘Tang-E is motivated.’

Tang-E was wonderfully more active in battle than usual. He cast magic even if Hyeonu didn’t mention it. Moreover, the timing of his casting was appropriate. He used magic whenever a monster targeted Hyeonu and wielded its weapon or when Hyeonu’s attacks caused the monster to show a gap in its defense. Tang-E’s magic always flew out at precisely the right time.

‘Then why isn’t he leveling up?’

However, Tang-E’s level wasn’t rising. Obviously, they were hunting monsters without a break as there were too many monsters in the Red Marsh. If they hunted one, another one would appear. If they hunted two, two more would appear. Tang-E’s level still hadn’t changed even under such conditions, so Hyeonu started to worry.

‘Tang-E’s level is important, but... the quest is also important.’

Hyeonu had just felt like Tang-E would level up soon. Hiding his feelings of urgency, Hyeonu asked Tang-E carefully, “Tang-E, is it still far away?”

“I don’t know. The feeling isn’t coming out well this time. I can’t say when it will happen.” Tang-E shook his head. This time was different from before. He really didn’t feel anything. No, it was just that he didn’t know what this feeling meant exactly.

“Sometimes I feel like it will happen soon. Then after a while, I don’t feel it anymore. I’m sorry, Master.” Tang-E covered his head with his paws.

He sat on the floor with his head between his knees, looking like he was blaming himself. Seeing this scene, Hyeonu felt bad. Sigh... Why am I urging him now?’

He blamed himself and reflected on whether he was urging Tang-E forcefully. Even if this wasn’t his intention, it was obviously his fault if Tang-E thought about it this way.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to... Just don't think about it. You are precious regardless of whether you awaken or not.”

Hyeonu went to Tang-E, whose head was currently lowered, and hugged him. He didn’t force Tang-E’s head up or take any other action. He just held Tang-E in his arms.

‘Master dude is naive... It is a surprise gift.’

Tang-E’s face couldn’t be seen by Hyeonu, so there was an amused look on Tang-E’s face. He was now preparing to give a gift to Hyeonu called the third awakening.

Tang-E smiled while answering naturally, “No, Master. I will try harder.”


***


‘Is there nothing in the Red Marsh?’

Hyeonu’s eyes narrowed. He had already spent nearly a day here. However, the only things he encountered in the Red Marsh were monsters. He didn’t even see any players. Not a single strand of hair could be seen. There were only monsters.

‘I should be satisfied with increasing Tang-E’s experience...’

Hyeonu just felt it was a pity. Just as he was looking at the sky and clicking his tongue disappointedly, he received a whisper from someone.

-From Gang Junggu: Are you busy now?

Gang Junggu, who was in the East Continent with Kim Seokjung, contacted Hyeonu.

‘What’s going on?’ Hyeonu wondered. 

-To Gang Junggu: Yes, it’s fine. What’s going on, Hyung-nim?

Hyeonu cocked his head as he answered the whisper.

-From Gang Junggu: Another merchant group has been attacked again. I’m chasing after them, but there are problems. I need your help.

Gang Junggu’s words were unexpected. The man who was supposed to be in the East Continent was currently chasing the raiders through the Balder Mountains.

-To Gang Junggu: Hyung-nim, why are you chasing them? If it is because I asked...

-From Gang Junggu: That isn’t the reason. Our side got a quest from Chen Long. He told us to punish them.

Things turned out well. Gang Junggu—New World, to be exact, was in the Balder Mountains on their own quest.

‘It’s lucky.’

-To Gang Junggu: Great. So what can I do to help you, Hyung-nim?

-From Gang Junggu: They are moving in three directions. We want to share them, but their levels aren’t low, and the number on our side is too small.

The attackers are well aware that there are only three places where they can be. Therefore, they never move in a united manner. They divide into several groups every time.

The response to this was simple. The chasers had to split up like the attackers. However, that method wasn’t possible for the New World Guild. There were many enemies, and they didn’t know where the reinforcements were hiding. In order to keep a minimal level of safety, the New World Guild could only divide their number in half.

-To Gang Junggu: Great. I’m in the Red Marsh right now.

Gang Junggu was very happy to hear that Hyeonu was in the Red Marsh. It was the result of the conversation they had previously.

-From Gang Junggu: Really? Then please handle that area. We will be responsible for the other two places.

This was a relationship of give and take. Hyeonu had also made progress due to the contact from Gang Junggu after all.

-To Gang Junggu: I understand. I will definitely deal with the Red Marsh.


***


Since being contacted by Gang Junggu, Hyeonu moved diligently. His destination was the northern end of the Red Marsh. Based on Gang Junggu’s words, some attackers would appear there soon.

‘These guys.’ Hyeonu’s guess was correct. Not long after Hyeonu sat down in a tree with Tang-E, he saw some attackers appear.

“Tang-E, you have to be quiet now. Got it?”

Hyeonu was carrying Tang-E on his back. They could move separately, but it was more comfortable for him to carry Tang-E. This was so there were fewer things he needed to pay attention to.

“Understood, Master dude.” Tang-E nodded as though he understood.

Approximately 30 attackers appeared, and they were moving quickly. They seemed very familiar with the terrain of the Red Marsh and didn’t hesitate at all. Hyeonu was watching all of this. They were soon about to leave his field of view.

“Hang on tight. If you let go, you will fly away,” Hyeonu told Tang-E before moving. He ran between the trees like he was running on the ground but in a very secretive manner. Hyeonu made no sounds. Even the small sound of branches breaking wasn’t tolerated.

‘Where are they going?’ He wondered.

The attackers slipped through the Red Marsh. They avoided combat with monsters and moved as fast as possible. If it was necessary to fight, they killed the monsters as swiftly as possible using accurate target selection. Seeing this scene, Hyeonu exclaimed inwardly, ‘They seem a bit skilled?!’

It was unbelievable that NPCs were involved. At first glance, they could be mistaken as professional gamers. The attackers didn’t know about Hyeonu’s admiration for them and continued to move. Suddenly, their movements slowed down a bit. They had arrived at their destination. The place they stopped at wasn’t the Red Marsh, but neither was it the Ant Garden nor Corrupted Elemental Forest. These two places weren’t adjacent to the Red Marsh.

‘I didn’t expect it to be here...’

Hyeonu figured out his current location and thought it was absurd. The hideout of the attackers was located in a completely unexpected place.

‘Let's watch a bit more.’

It was important to wipe them out straight away, but there was a possibility that this could be a trick. He couldn’t act rashly as long as there was a small possibility. Just then, all the paused attackers turned their heads and looked around. Maybe they didn’t feel at ease, so they started to observe their surroundings personally.

A long time passed before the attackers gathered again in front of a huge rock. The attacker in the lead lightly placed his right hand on it. Surprisingly, the rock cracked suddenly opened, revealing a path inside. The attackers quickly concealed themselves as they made their way into the path. While watching this scene, Hyeonu murmured to himself, “Um...

The path was too dark even with the oil lamps.

‘Cruise Mountain...’

On the boundary between the Balder Mountains and Mount Cheon, this was the mountain where the stone tablet used to be. So the attackers’ base was on Cruise Mountain. After finding out about this, Hyeonu immediately contacted Gang Junggu.

-To Gang Junggu: Hyung-nim, what is happening on your side?

There was no answer from Gang Junggu. A long time passed before Hyeonu received an answer.

-From Gang Junggu: Sorry, the battle just ended.

-To Gang Junggu: Battle? Were you discovered?

-From Gang Junggu: It couldn’t be helped. Something happened in the middle.

-To Gang Junggu: What was the damage? Are you okay?

-From Gang Junggu: A few people were logged out, but it was okay. We still killed them all. However, there were no NPCs. They were all players.

‘All players?’ A question appeared in Hyeonu’s mind. It didn’t make sense that there weren’t any NPCs. Players alone couldn’t do this.

-To Gang Junggu: What happened to the other place? Didn’t you chase both groups?

-From Gang Junggu: There was a chase and a battle. Only a few New World executives barely survived, but the opponents were all players. It seemed to be one of the guilds participating in the alliance.

‘Were they cards to be thrown away in the first place?’

This didn’t make sense. It was impossible to know which group would be chased and which group wouldn’t be chased.

‘Were the ones I followed players?’

Hyeonu didn’t know. There was no way to check from a distance whether they were players. Then right when Hyeonu was questioning the situation, the huge rock moved once again. Some people emerged from the open door. They were faces that Hyeonu knew well.

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