Chapter 109 - Opening Act (7)

Cough! Blood poured out of Shanon’s mouth. No amount of skill could overcome a torn throat. However, even though he was dying, his lips trembled. He was losing all of his strength and could barely move them, but Yeon-woo realized that he was trying to smile. ‘Is he laughing?’

“I’m glad...my subordinates…will live…!” Relief flooded Shanon’s eyes. 

A sense of sorrow flooded Yeon-woo as he looked at Shanon. “Aren’t you afraid of dying?”

“Of course…I did everything I...could to stay…alive.”

“Then why?”

“I became embarrassed…watching the…Martial King. I’m…also a leader, after all.”

Yeon-woo’s eyes widened as he realized why he was feeling so much sorrow. Even though Shanon had resigned himself to death and didn’t know how much time he had left, he still cared about his subordinates’ wellbeing. He might have once selfishly cared about his own survival, but somewhere along the line, he’d changed. He was now even ashamed of how self-centered he’d once been.

It was so different from what happened to his brother, whose friends had no regard for anything other than their own survival and glory. If only someone like Shanon had been around Jeong-woo. A contented look appeared on Shanon’s face as he fell to his knees. A puddle of blood formed around him, and Yeon-woo’s reflection floated on its surface.

Yeon-woo stepped back, suddenly feeling tired. Pain had also begun to spread over his body as his overloaded Cores and empty Magic Circuit protested. The pain was particularly intense because it was passed down from the Draconic species’ Magic Circuit.

“Oraboni.” Edora ran to support him, finally releasing the breath she’d held in the entire time he fought.

Phante followed her, thinking, ‘This monster has become an even bigger monster.’ Beating a semi-ranker was a huge milestone, and Phante knew exactly what its significance was. Also, he knew that Yeon-woo hadn’t revealed his most important ace: the black sword that he’d seen back in Section G of the Tutorial and all the other artifacts that he’d earned. And yet, without any of these, he still managed to beat a semi-ranker.

“You worked hard. It was fun to watch. Seems like you can fight better than you look.”

Yeon-woo caught the bottle the Martial King threw at him and drank deeply. The pain gradually disappeared as his magic power slowly regenerated with the help of the potion. Yeon-woo had a lot of questions to ask now that he was feeling better. “What are focal points?”

Yeon-woo was sure that he’d stabbed the imperfections, only for them to disappear and then reappear somewhere else. This was the biggest challenge he’d encountered during his fight with Shanon.

“They’re fake.”

“No, I’m sure they weren’t feints but real motions.”

“No, it’s the same idea. The difference is whether they’re possibilities or reality.”

Yeon-woo was bewildered, and the Martial King considered how to make the concept clearer. “Let me explain this way: when that guy’s sword almost touched you, the sword could take one of many possibilities, such as offense or defense. And each choice leads to an even greater number of possibilities. Understand?”

Yoen-woo nodded.

“So, do you know which of the possibilities you should choose? What should influence your decision?”

“It depends on the situation...”

“Exactly, it depends on the situation. Focal points simply add at least one more possibility to the mix.”

Yeon-woo was beginning to get a grasp of the concept. “It’s a trap.”

“That’s one way of looking at it. But if you fall for the trap, you can still backtrack and choose a different possibility. Focal points give you the power to choose possibilities.”

“Possibilities.” Yeon-woo mumbled. It was similar to Precognition, but while Precognition predicted the actual moves of the enemy, focal points provided a way to see possibilities and choose the best one for the situation. “I didn’t know that was possible.”

“He did it, right?”

Yeon-woo didn’t know what to say to that.

“That was a joke. It’s not that easy. Every time you swing your sword, you have to see the different possibilities. If you do it wrong, your brain might even get mixed up.” The Martial King grinned. “But if you can do it successfully, there’s no better fighting method. Of course, it’s only for players who have trained their mana to the extreme. And focal points aren’t perfect either, and it’s only when you’re at a certain level and your sixth sense improves that it gets easier to choose.”

It was no wonder Shanon had been curious about Yeon-woo’s fighting skills. They were on the level of someone who ought to be able to discern among focal points, and yet Yeon-woo couldn’t do it. However, Yeon-woo now knew for certain that he had to improve two aspects of his skills: focal points and sixth sense. ‘I guess the only thing I can do is train some more.’

He clenched his fists, desiring the keen senses Shanon had shown. If his physique couldn’t keep up, there was no point in having good artifacts, and he’d already pushed his body to the extreme several times. ‘I have to finish the succession process.’

There were so many things to do but instead of feeling overwhelmed, Yeon-woo was delighted that there were so many paths to growing stronger. ‘It doesn’t matter how much talent I have, I can just keep working at it.’ Yeon-woo forced his heavy body up and added Shanon to his Soul Collection. “Uh, and Your Majesty.” Yeon-woo turned to face the Martial King as Edora supported him. He wanted to confirm something.

The Martial King waved him away as though he already knew what Yeon-woo was going to say. “I’m not evil enough to abuse weak people, OK? Don’t worry.” He would leave Shanon’s subordinates alone.

Yeon-woo nodded at the confirmation. Now, all he cared about was resting after using his full strength for the first time in a while.

The first battle between the Cheonghwado and Red Dragon ended on that note.

***

The news of Kuram’s fall spread all over the Tower, making people tremble in fear from the unexpected participation of the One-horned tribe and the Cheonghwado’s move to unsheathe their sword. The Cheonghwado flooded the eleventh floor with their forces before Red Dragon could rally, and in the process, they got rid of the remaining members of Red Dragon.

However, Red Dragon began to move. Although the eleventh floor was a card they could throw away, they couldn’t just step back and let someone take over their territory.

Other news spread about the Hoarder, who had killed the semi-ranker Shanon and four other players. Although it didn’t make much of a ripple on the higher floors, it was like a bomb on the lower ones, especially now that everyone knew that the Hoarder was a guest of the One-horned tribe.

***

“Those Cheonghwado bastards. I bet they’re so happy they could die.” Bahal smiled bitterly as he read the report the Flame Beast’s deputy leader gave him. With the help of the One-horned tribe, they had taken over eighty percent of the eleventh floor.

Red Dragon couldn’t sit still and let this happen. Dragons were vicious creatures, and failure wasn’t in their vocabulary, especially now that their pride had been greatly injured. The Summer Queen was especially furious, although Bahal, who had a cold and rational character, couldn’t understand why. ‘But if the Queen says “Jump”, I can only ask “How high”.’

Bahal smiled coldly. After he’d defeated Leonte, he became the overseer of the eleventh floor, and he’d been ordered to do only one thing: reclaim it. Although the idea was preposterous, especially since the Martial King was around, Bahal didn’t complain and acted quickly.

Flame Beast followed him like a shadow, accompanied by fighting squads like Blaze, Corona Anaconda, Raven Party, and Wolf Squad. There were enough of them to form an army, and they looked from their heights at the capital of the eleventh floor, ready to exterminate all life forms in the city.

Whoosh! Red Dragon arrived above the city.

***

The Saber God walked along a path, carrying out his orders despite the chaos on the eleventh floor. The war had probably started by now, and Red Dragon was likely suffering from the participation of the One-horned tribe. Since Legendary Beasts were creatures that symbolized the Tower, their deaths would cause pandemonium. However, it was the only way to guarantee the Cheonghwado’s victory.

“Move.” At the Saber God’s command, the shadows around him began to slaughter all the beasts in the vicinity, ensuring that they eliminated all variables and gathered as much Neidan as possible. The Saber God’s lips quivered. He could feel the Phoenix’s presence somewhere.

***

『Something’s here.』

The Phoenix narrowed her eyes at the turmoil in her territory. It seemed like the humans’ plans had managed to encroach all the way here, and for the first time, she felt that things were going to become difficult. Her children were busy playing and running around, without a care in the world.

“Tweet?” Chirpy, who sensed his mother’s gaze, tilted his head.

Previous Chapter Next Chapter