Chapter 104 – Opening Act (2)

“My strength?”

His brother’s journal didn’t contain any information about the high rankers’ skills, but it didn’t matter because Yeon-woo wanted to see it for himself, and now he had a rare opportunity to witness the strength of the Martial King, who was at peak of the Nine Kings.

“Geez. Being a teacher really isn’t easy. Hm. What should I show you?” Instead of finding Yeon-woo’s many requests annoying, the Martial King saw it as a sign of confidence. Also, he thought it would be a good chance to show off a fancy move.

A long time ago, he had been called “the Walking Archive” because he knew so many types of Mugong and mastered quite a few of them. Since the Mugong he was planning on teaching Yeon-woo was the Eight Extreme Fists, he figured he’d give Yeon-woo a little preview. “I don’t usually show this to other people, and I’m doing this just for you, so watch closely. This is a part of the Eight Extreme Fists called ‘Break Heaven’.”

The Martial King got into position, and the atmosphere suddenly grew heavier. Crash! Yeon-woo fixed his Draconic Eyes on the Martial King. He didn’t want to miss a single thing: breathing, mana circulation, muscle movement, or the angles of his movements. The goal he wanted to attain was unfolding right in front of him.

The dormant beast inside the Martial King began to show itself, and his fighting spirit burst like a tempest. The Martial King’s presence expanded until he was like a giant, then grew even more vast, as though he were the only existence in the world.

Edora grew pale and stepped back, planting her sword in the ground as if to protect herself. Even Yeon-woo found it hard to stay steady. The Magic Circuit spun in his body like crazy, but he was only barely able to keep his balance as he stared at the Martial King without taking his eyes away for a single second.

Everything about the Martial King looked like an illusion, and it was more than what he’d seen before. He was being shown an entirely new world, and all the concepts he’d categorized in his head exploded like fireworks. When he tried to put them back together, they fell like Jenga blocks in the face of a strength that exceeded Mugong, the strength of someone who had trained their magic power to its fullest. It was the summit that he had to reach!

The Martial King’s light glowed blue, and with his hand, he cut a line in the air across the sun. Swish! And then, all of a sudden, the sun split in two.

Yeon-woo’s eyes widened at the unbelievable sight. Edora covered her mouth with her hand. A soundless scream seemed to echo around the two pieces of the sun that had fallen, and darkness collapsed on them, suffocating the world as though light had never existed in the first place. And then, as though it were a magic trick, the sun returned to its spot and light returned to the world. Everything happened so quickly that people wondered if they had imagined it. Yeon-woo was shocked beyond words. ‘Those things are possible?’

He thought that he had already taken the first steps to becoming powerful with the mana control he’d developed in four days. However, there was such a gap between him and the Martial King that he almost didn’t even want to try catching up. Even his Draconic Eyes couldn’t keep up with the Martial King’s moves.

“Whew! My shoulder hurts a bit from using my strength. You saw everything, right?” The Martial King said as he rotated his shoulder. “We’re leaving tonight, so don’t be late. Edora, give this kid some food. Everyone’s going to underestimate him when they see how thin he is. OK? I’m off now.” After that profound demonstration, the Martial King left quietly.

Yeon-woo spent a long time gathering his wits. ‘Someday.’ His fists were so clenched so tightly that his veins bulged. A new passion kindled in his heart. ‘Someday I will surpass that.’ For the first time, a goalpost he had to reach appeared in Yeon-woo’s mind.

***

“Ugh. I almost died.” In a distant spot far away from Yeon-woo and Edora, the Martial King checked to see that he was alone and then began massaging his right arm. He had suffered a lot of muscle damage from pushing his magic power to its fullest.

『Those are my exact thoughts as well. Why were you showing off? The elders are almost out of their wits looking for you. They’re wondering if you’ve lost your mind, and all the other clans will be sending complaints to us.』 The Psychic Medium scolded him.

“Nah. But hon, I can’t show this kid any weakness, can I?” He grinned. “A teacher is supposed to be someone who can’t be overshadowed. I have to be a wall as well as a goal to encourage the student to work harder.”

『And what if you completely remove his motivation?』

“Well, if that’s the case, then he’s not worth my time,” the Martial King said in a cool tone.

『Anyway, how was it? Are you satisfied? You weren’t planning to go this far before.』

“I was satisfied from the beginning.”

『What?』

“I’m going to make him work harder than I planned. That Sword God guy took thirty days to finish the test, but this kid only took four. Since I have to be an even better teacher, isn’t it fair to ask him to be an even better student?” The Martial King’s eyes were full of anticipation as he smiled, thinking of how fun it would be if those two disciples met. He couldn’t help thinking that a lot of amusing things would happen during the war.

***

Night arrived, signaling the beginning of the war. Those tribe members who’d agreed to join the war were already waiting in the center of the village. Twenty-one clans had promised to participate, and each one sent representatives. Some clans sent around a dozen while others sent 100 fighters, and in total, there were about 500 warriors. Although the number didn’t seem particularly large, their auras made them appear to be an army of thousands.

Yeon-woo was somewhere in the crowd with the other guests, listening to the Martial King’s speech.

“I bet you guys are scared because it’s been a while since we went outside, huh? Don’t wet your pants, all right? I’ll be keeping an eye on those people.” His speech was full of jokes and wasn’t serious or dignified at all.

“Ha! You’re the one who needs to be careful. If we find you getting beaten up, we’re going to pick another king.”

“Hohohoho. That sounds like fun!”

“Hang on, isn’t that the best outcome, though? We won’t have to look at his face again!”

The warriors joked along with the king as well, making Yeon-woo think that perhaps this attitude was partly the reason the One-horned tribe was the strongest military force in the Tower. They didn’t think they would lose, and despite their jokes, they had immense respect for the Martial King.

“Anyway, you’d better not die because if you do, I’ll follow you to hell and drag you back by the ear and embarrass the hell out of you. Got it?”

“Yes, Your Majesty!”

“All right!”

“Let’s go. It’s time to play.” After the Martial King shouted, the warriors ripped the tickets that they’d been given.

Yeon-woo also ripped his ticket with all his might. His eyes flared up like will-o’-wisps. The war between Red Dragon and the Cheonghwado had begun.

***

[This is the 11th floor, the stage of the dream world.]

Before the message even disappeared, Yeon-woo and the One-horned tribe moved as one towards the city of Kuram, planning to travel without any rest and the moon their only source of light.

“Fighting together like this is fate. Why don’t we get acquainted? I’m Sylon.” A beautiful voice said, the speaker approaching Yeon-woo. He held a hammer high over his head and revealed himself to be a Halfling a little shorter than Henova.

Sylon was a famous ranker widely known as the Singing Hammer. He had gained fame for being able to exert a great amount of strength despite his small body, but he had disappeared from the Tower to live with the One-horned tribe.

‘He really looks like a child.’ Although Sylon looked young, he was already middle-aged and had gone through many experiences. Halflings and Dwarves had similar physiques, so people distinguished them through their faces. Dwarves had muscular faces, while Halflings had childlike ones. They were also famous for their beautiful voices and musical ability.

“Cain.” Yeon-woo glanced at Sylon for a brief moment before looking ahead once more. It was clear that he didn’t intend on having a conversation.

Sylon looked at Yeon-woo with a baffled expression. At first, when he’d heard that the latest guest of the tribe was the Hoarder, he hadn’t felt any interest. He didn’t really care about the goings-on of the Tower, but when he heard the rumor that the Martial King had taken the Hoarder on as a disciple, his ears had perked up. ‘That rude Martial King has a new disciple?’

During the entire time he’d been a guest, he had only seen two of the Martial King’s disciples. One was the Sword God, and the other one was equally powerful. To become the Martial King’s disciple, one needed not just potential but also a really special quality. Sylon was curious to see for himself what the Martial King noticed in Cain.

However, Yeon-woo was ignoring him after only sharing his name. His rude attitude made Sylon’s eyebrows twitch. This disciple was just like the other ones, and he got on Sylon’s nerves as much as the Martial King did. Perhaps rudeness was something all powerful people had in common.

Sylon had almost never received this kind of attitude during his time as a ranker, and he tried to suppress his anger. Perhaps he was talking to a total newbie who had just begun his climb up the Tower and didn’t know who Sylon was. Sylon forced a laugh. “Hm. You’re really quiet and blunt for your age. Have you met the other guests? We were going to throw a party to welcome you, but you were in the archives for days.” Sylon wanted to get along with Cain, hoping to see the quality that the Martial King observed.

However, at that moment, the Martial King, who was at the front, barked, “Cain! Come to the front!”

Yeon-woo nodded at Sylon and disappeared. Sylon frowned. He stopped walking as he thought about how the little brat had ignored him.

“Are you all right?” Trivia, who had been following Sylon quietly, laughed. It was hard to make out his features clearly because of his hood, but his wrinkles hinted at his age. He was also a ranker who was a guest of the tribe, and he was known as the Electrician.

“Did you just ask me if I’m all right? I was just wondering if all the guys like the Martial King are like that.”

“They might. They’re people not used to social interaction.” Trivia rubbed his chin. “I heard that the Martial King will be giving lessons to him during the war. Guess we’ll be seeing something interesting.”

“Sheesh.” Sylon’s eyes were narrowed in annoyance. “We’ll find out if he can afford to have that kind of attitude after seeing his performance.”

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