Chapter 108 - Opening Act (6)

Semi-rankers were players who challenged rankers.

The strongest players in the Tower are called rankers, and they usually have gone past the fiftieth floor. However, it doesn’t mean that the fiftieth floor is a piece of cake. It can’t be underestimated at all, and the level of difficulty makes a huge leap between the forty-ninth floor and the fiftieth floor. Even some of the strongest players can’t pass that floor, and that’s why rankers are so amazing.

Players who are about to defeat the fiftieth floor are called challengers or semi-rankers.

Seventy-seven floors in the Tower had been conquered so far, but the floors that had the most number of people were the first floor and the forty-ninth floor. The reason was simple. The first floor was difficult for players who had just passed the Tutorial, making it a bottleneck. As for the forty-ninth floor, even players who’d been having a smooth time found it difficult to get past the fiftieth floor. Most of them failed and returned to the forty-ninth floor, which was why the rankers who managed to pass the fiftieth floor called the inhabitants of the forty-ninth floor “failures”.

However, for the players on the lower floors, passing the forty-ninth floor was already an incredible feat. As for the impossible milestone that was the fiftieth floor, it was something that only the truly strong and determined could pass. As a result, the players on the forty-ninth floor were called “semi-rankers” as a sign of respect. Besides, it was said that a few semi-rankers were even more powerful than actual rankers.

And now there was a semi-ranker standing before Yeon-woo. He laughed in disbelief. Even at full strength, he had a slim chance of winning. At this point, he was mentally and physically exhausted, and fighting Shanon was like committing suicide. However, Yeon-woo only felt his will to fight intensify. ‘This is fun.’ He began laughing once more, this time in amusement.

Yeon-woo was going to defeat the Eight Clans single-handedly, and to do that, he had to grow stronger by defeating semi-rankers like this. Otherwise, he had no chance of defeating the Nine Kings, who were all high rankers. He had to be at least at the same level as the Martial King to pull off his revenge.

Defeating the previous players had already given him so many benefits—he’d managed to link Heaven Wing Mana Control and the Eight Extreme Fists, and he could now control the intensity of the Cores. He’d been able to identify his weaknesses by pushing himself to the breaking point.

This was likely the reason behind the Martial King’s decision to set up the fights. Although Yeon-woo’s life would be endangered with a single moment of carelessness, he reasoned, ‘I already put myself at risk by entering the Tower. There’s no difference.’

The Martial King probably thought the same thing. In some ways, he was extremely dispassionate.

Yeon-woo lightly waved his hand. The Black Bracelet made a slight ringing noise and locked the souls inside the collection. It was hard to get the souls of semi-rankers, and it would be nice if he could turn this one into a Spirit Familiar.

Yeon-woo pushed his Magic Circuit to its limit. He didn’t have to worry about mana with its improved efficiency, and an abundant amount of magic power filled his body. He activated his Draconic Eyes and Combat Will and got into position.

The proficiency level of the Eight Extreme Fists (Superior) was at fifteen point two percent, and Heaven Wing Mana Control was at thirty-one point two percent, and since he had completely mastered the first section of the Eight Extreme Fists, he had no concerns.

Shanon could tell that Yeon-woo was gathering all his strength for this fight and gripped his sword tightly. Human or beast, any creature that fought with everything it had was dangerous. He observed that Yeon-woo was this kind of beast, one that was drenched in blood. He wouldn’t fall no matter how tired he was and would continue growling and baring his teeth.

Shanon lifted his sword, the Sword Breaker. It was bumpy all over, as though it were paved with cobblestones, and Aura condensed within the blade. Shanon looked at Yeon-woo with an unreadable expression. “May I ask for a favor?”

“What’s that?”

“Regardless of the result of this battle. I’d like it if my subordinates could be saved.”

“What?” Yeon-woo narrowed his eyes at the unexpected request. Up to this point, all the players he had met were more concerned with their own lives, not others.

But Shanon smiled bitterly. “To be honest, on the way here, I was so scared that I didn’t think of my subordinates at all. I’ve only just thought of them now, and I know we’re meeting as enemies, but you’re not cruel enough to kill those who’ve surrendered, right?”

Yeon-woo read Shanon’s mind. ‘He’s not planning on winning this battle.’

It was strange. Shanon obviously had the advantage, and he’d been burning with a will to live as he observed Yeon-woo and figured out his weaknesses and how to attack them. But something had shifted in him. He seemed partly resigned and partly curious about Yeon-woo.

Yeon-woo had no idea why a heavy feeling had descended on Shanon. It was as though he were standing in front of a wall. ‘I’ll break it at once.’ Yeon-woo summoned his fire, planning on finishing the fight as quickly as possible.

With his Fire Wings, he soared higher than ever into the sky. He wrapped the wings around himself and stamped his foot. As the flames whipped around Shanon, he lashed out with Sword Breaker, and a strong wind pushed the fire away.

Yeon-woo focused his magic power to his feet and steadied himself in midair. And as he turned, he struck Shanon’s neck with Carshina’s Dagger.

Shanon responded with his Aura, which exploded like fireworks against the attack, trying to rip Yeon-woo apart, and he had to hurriedly flicker out of range. However, he made another try, using the first section of the Eight Extreme Fists as Shanon swung Sword Breaker in wide arcs, Aura spiking out like thorns with every swing.

Yeon-woo and Shanon’s fight was close, and neither of them allowed a glimpse of weakness to show through. Yeon-woo fought with no holds barred, not even caring about the injuries on his body that continuously gushed blood.

On the other hand, Shanon fought steadily, trying to push Yeon-woo into a hole with his Aura. Every time Yeon-woo tried to attack Shanon to find his weakness, he was met by an insurmountable wall. He couldn’t find a single crack or weak spot. Yeon-woo was starting to realize what the significance of being a semi-ranker was. Shanon was truly on a completely different level.

Still, Yeon-woo didn’t give up, and he turned up all the Cores to full power. He kept getting notifications about his Magic Circuit overloading, but he ignored them all. He didn’t even use Vigrid, the Black Bracelet, or even Aegis. This was a fight to test his strength alone, and he didn’t want to rely on anything else, even if it meant that he was risking his life.

Boom! An explosion burst out, sending sparks flying every time he swung his daggers. Blood rose in his throat but he swallowed it back. The Draconic Eyes were showing all the imperfections around Shanon knotted together like strings that led to one point. ‘Above his left elbow!’ It was the first weakness he’d spotted.

Yeon-woo quickly lunged with Carshina’s Dagger, worried that the weakness might disappear. The thirty-six Cores rushed with movement, but the moment the dagger made contact, the elbow disappeared as though it were an illusion. ‘What? Was it an illusion?’ He moved his body to the side right away, but Shanon was already swinging Sword Breaker down on Yeon-woo’s neck.

The attack was as fast as a lightning strike, and Yeon-woo barely had time to summon the Fire Wings. He flew off like a kite with a cut string, turning his body in midair to try to land. However, he still couldn’t steady himself enough and was pushed back once more, his feet leaving grooves on the ground as he skidded back.

Yeon-woo clenched his teeth. “What happened?” He was sure he had struck the flaw. Why did it suddenly disappear? He couldn’t think about this too much at the moment, guessing that he must have just missed something. He activated his Draconic Eyes once more to observe the imperfections, feeling that his strength was quickly ebbing away.

This time, he saw two imperfections, and he mustered up all his power to strike once more. But the imperfections disappeared yet again, and flecks of Aura poured like rain over him. Yeon-woo didn’t try to counterattack and instead just sped away, widening the gap between him and Shanon, who continued to stand like a wall ahead of him.

Shanon revealed so many imperfections to the Draconic Eyes, but Yeon-woo’s instincts warned him not to be taken in. One more mistake, and he’d be finished. ‘What’s going on?’ He had never failed before when attacking someone’s imperfections, and his face grew increasingly grim from frustration.

“Ah, I see.” Shanon smirked as if he’d just realized something. “You don’t know what a focal point is.”

‘Focal point?’ Yeon-woo narrowed his eyes as he held his weapons cautiously. He’d never heard of anything like that before.

“Why don’t you know what focal points are? This is something that only martial arts beginners are ignorant of.”

From the way Yeon-woo fought, Shanon had assumed that he’d trained in martial arts for a while. He never imagined that Yeon-woo had just started learning. “Well. It doesn’t matter if you can’t find focal points since you’ll be dead anyway.” Shanon was curious about this discovery, but it didn’t matter since he had found Yeon-woo’s weaknesses. “It’s my move now.” He made a fast, effortless movement that seemed completely opposite to the sturdiness he’d shown earlier.

Yeon-woo realized that all of Shanon’s previous attacks and counterattacks had only been to probe his weakness. The sword swung towards his neck in an instant, and Yeon-woo only managed to avoid it by turning aside and maximizing his fire ability. The blade missed his neck but immediately changed direction and headed towards his waist. Yeon-woo swung the Magic Bayonet down to block it, only to see the sword disappear as though it had never been there.

Yeon-woo’s eyes widened as his instincts screamed danger, just as before. He felt something approaching his back, and he quickly turned his Draconic Eyes to see a blade headed right at him. He could only think of one thing: ‘I’m going to die.’

[Combat Will]

The overloaded Magic Circuit started firing up again, and his decision-making ability fired up even faster even though a migraine was making him feel like his head was about to explode. He had to examine the situation and make decisions as fast as he could.

Is there a way to avoid the sword? None.

A way to stop it? None.

A way to avoid being severely injured? None.

He kept on asking himself questions, hoping to find a solution, but each answer was the same. He didn’t know what to do. All possible actions led to only one outcome: a blade cleaving through the air and splitting his head apart.

Even if luck was on his side and he managed to avoid the blade, Shanon’s rapid attacks made him feel like he would be ripped to shreds at any moment. Yeon-woo suddenly felt powerless. After changing his Magic Circuit and training his Mugong, he still wasn’t good enough. He was too weak, and the gap between him and a semi-ranker was simply insurmountable.

He was caught in Shanon’s trap and the only way to escape was through death. With this path the only one left to him, Yeon-woo decided to rethink how he’d reached this point. The Martial King had given him this challenge, which was more difficult than creating a new Inner Cultivation. Surely, he hadn’t done it so that Yeon-woo would die. The Martial King did things a little untraditionally, but he had a reason for it. That meant that there was a way to overcome the semi-ranker. But how?

The Martial King had told Yeon-woo to fight with everything he had. Mugong was just one of his many resources, so perhaps the answer was in another skill. He’d already called on Draconic Eyes, Sense Strengthening, and Combat Will, but he had one skill left that he hadn’t used yet.

At that moment, he stopped wondering. The blade passed close to him again, but he activated the final, untapped skill. ‘Precognition.’ He hadn’t wanted to use it because it would eat up all of his magic power, but at this point, there was no other option.

When Yeon-woo opened his eyes, Sword Breaker had penetrated his chest, and he felt as though it would rip him apart. He had only two seconds to turn things around, but that was enough. As long as he stayed alive, he could still fight.

“What’s this? You should be dead.”

“You don’t need to know.” Yeon-woo moved his body back forcefully, taking Sword Breaker, which was still embedded in his chest, with him. Not expecting this move, Shanon stumbled forward with the sword, and Yeon-woo saw his chance. He raised Carshina’s Dagger and sliced through Shanon’s neck.

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