Chapter 15 - Black Route (4)

“What’s going on here?” Bild stood scowling at the sight of Kaen’s team. Something terrible had happened while he was on a mission to look for an important item. He was extremely irked since he thought he had found some good prospects for his clan. But all his hopes had been dashed. It was too late to help them get treatment, and they had only managed to stay alive thanks to some generous players who shared their food with them.

Among the four, the person who was doing the best was paralyzed from the waist down, and Kaen himself was completely paralyzed from the neck down. Bild asked Kaen’s team what had happened, but none of them could give a proper answer. They vacantly gazed into space, and a couple laughed dejectedly as though they’d lost their minds. Bild realized that it was futile to get information from Kaen’s party, so he started looking for witnesses. 

It was a conflict between players, so he could just ignore it, but he found it difficult to let go. “He really dared to mess with us. So annoying! He must have known they were under Arangdan’s protection, but he just didn’t care. That means he's looking down on us.” Bild was very proud of Arangdan—or to be more precise, he was devoted to the Cheonghwado, which governed Arangdan. Still, Arangdan was a product of his hard work. He had established it along with the man he served. He couldn’t stand the thought of it being disrespected. 

"It was a guy wearing a white mask?"

Every single witness gave the same description: white mask, short dagger, fast movements.

"Huh? Y-yes, it was."

"A mask, was it?" Bild raised his eyebrows. He hadn’t heard of anyone with a white mask in this Tutorial round. "I guess I’ll have to start searching first." Bild ran off. He didn’t have to worry about traveling between sections since players who had already cleared the Tutorial had a pass to go anywhere in the Tutorial. ‘Too bad I can’t gain any additional statistics or karma here.’ Because of his haste, Bild overlooked the fact that just before the masked man fought Kaen’s team, they had been speaking to a young man.

* * *

Taking advantage of the darkness, three bats launched their attacks, opening their mouths to launch ultrasonic waves. The cave echoed, confusing Yeon-woo’s senses. But despite the turmoil, he detected each bat’s position accurately simply by listening to the sound of the wind. He flung three daggers, and with the sound of shattering heads and wings tearing, the bats fell to the ground. He threw himself at them and finished them off.

[You have successfully slain 5 Sonic Bats.]

[Number of monsters hunted: 147]

"Whew. I'm starting to get used to this.” Yeon-woo gently rotated his shoulders and approached the bat carcasses. After getting rid of the Red O-Gong, Yeon-woo kept descending down the dungeon and killing all the monsters he encountered. The monsters closely resembled insects and beasts that were commonly seen in aquatic caverns, like centipedes, salamanders, hogfish, crickets, and bats. However, they were much bigger and more disgusting, and like the Red O-Gong, they were difficult to deal with.

However, as the number of monsters he killed increased, he grew used to hunting them. After he’d managed to kill 100, the hunting grew easier. Once he familiarized himself with their behavioral patterns, it became a piece of cake. 'The effect of Flame Heart and Frost Crest also played a role.'

Yeon-woo drew a dagger from his waist and began dissecting one of the bats. He peeled off its skin, separated the bones from the flesh, and slowly pulled out the intestines. It was something he had done in Africa many times before, and thanks to this, Yeon-woo had an easy time extracting what he wanted.

'He said the eyeballs and vocal cords of the Sonic Bats will become valuable later.' These items could all be used as materials. His brother had specified a number of items in his diary, saying that they were hard to find in the Tower, so he had to get them while he was in the Tutorial‘If I can make a good artifact out of these things, I will profit greatly.’ Yeon-woo only extracted the parts that could be used and organized them in his backpack. Then, he began to carefully remove the hearts.

He had been so worn out when he killed the Red O-Gong that he had no choice but to bite its heart with his teeth. But considerable skill was required to properly absorb the essence of flame monsters, so he cut the hearts out of the bats out cleanly. Yeon-woo tore off a handful of white moss, pushed it into his mouth, and ate the hearts one by one.

Crack.
 He could hear the sound produced by the changes inside his body. His body felt refreshed, and he once again felt something flowing rapidly through him. If he hadn’t increased his concentration using Combat Will, he wouldn’t have been able to feel this flow, which by now had grown familiar. ‘Magic power.’ His pores began to excrete waste.

[You have obtained a piece of Flame Heart and Frost Crest.]

[Current progress: 16.2%]

As soon as the message popped up, the mana drifting inside his body disappeared as if it had never existed. Yeon-woo licked his lips. As the progress of Flame Heart and Frost Crest increased, the feeling of mana flowing inside his body grew clearer. Yeon-woo realized that mana was also involved in the changes of his body, so he tried looking for clues. However, mana only gave him a little taste before disappearing, as though it were toying with him.

‘There’s nothing I can do.’ But that didn't mean there was no payoff at all. As Flame Heart and Frost Crest progressed, the amount of mana in his body grew bit by bit, and he could sense mana more clearly. Yeon-woo guessed that he would be able to handle mana when his progress reached 100 percent, so there was no need to hurry. 'What’s urgent is this right here.' From what was left of the bat’s carcass, Yeon-woo chose the hard parts, like the teeth, claws, and bones. Then he applied a mixture of white moss and the Red O-Gong’s toxic blood on them.

Hiss!
 The parts began to smoke and melt.

Each monster has a different kind of toxin in its blood. Some are even deadly, so they have to be handled cautiously in order to avoid contact with the blood.
 One of my teammates had a slightly—no, a very weird habit. He used toxins for battle purposes. He didn’t want to battle monsters directly because he was too lazy, or that’s what he said. But if you asked me, I would say that his laziness gave birth to a monster.

Arthia was a clan that had once ranked sixth in the Tower. The best players in their clan were his brother and another player. Actually, even his brother would admit that the other person was a notch above him when fighting against a large force. This person was called Bayluk the Anti-Venom. Although he was one of the people who deserved a slow, miserable death, Yeon-woo could still learn a thing or two from him. 

Bayluk used to be a scholar who studied alchemy in his world. He made a great achievement by analyzing the toxins in monster blood.

His brother had picked up some of Bayluk’s studies behind his back, and all of the information had been passed down to Yeon-woo. The concoction Yeon-woo was applying to the parts of the Sonic Bats was also one of Bayluk's inventions.

[Liquefying Acid Solution]
[A solution that weakens the structure of hard materials. If the solution is concentrated enough, it will dissolve the material.]

'There’s no reason to be ashamed of stealing his research if it’s there and can be used effectively.' If Yeon-woo could take something from him, he would do his best to do so. In fact, he was almost too happy stealing the information since Bayluk was his enemy. As the claws and teeth softened, Yeon-woo began to crush them into fine dust using the pommel of his dagger. It didn’t require much effort since his strength attribute was already approaching seventy.

He gathered up the powder and wrapped it up inside the bat wings that he had cut into squares. Then he tied them together using the tendons. They were now fist-sized pouches full of powder. Using this method, he’d collected large amounts of powder since entering the dungeon, and this was the fifteenth pouch that he’d made. Although it appeared to be a meaningless task, it was crucial in order to pass the next point. ‘There it is, the ant tunnel. He said this is the most difficult part.’ Yeon-woo looked at the cave beyond the passage and frowned a little. It was much larger than the passage.

Monsters that appeared in the Room of Frost and Flame varied according to the area and the environment. Only one kind of monster dwelled in this place. Yeon-woo gazed at the countless white eggs that dotted the walls and ceiling. It was a colony of Blue Army Ants.

[Blue Army Ant]
[The size of an ant ranges from 30 centimeters to a meter. Hundreds of ants form a society around the ant queen. Due to the nature of ant societies, each ant, including worker ants, is willing to sacrifice its life defending their habitat from attack.]

The reason he had been able to kill more than 100 monsters was that the monsters only appeared one or two at a time, five at most. If he fought hundreds of monsters at the same time… “That’s just nuts.” Before he could even act, he would be torn into pieces and fed to ant larvae. The problem was that Yeon-woo had no choice but to pass through the cave. In the room beyond the cave was Bathory's Vampiric Sword.

Artifact number 352.
 This is the number of Bathory's Vampiric Sword. When I found out that that place contained the hidden remains of Erzsebet Bathory, Lord of Vampires, I genuinely freaked out.

In the Tower, a player could choose from among dozens of classes to ensure smooth growth. Those who excelled and showed outstanding qualities were given the title of lord. They were masters of their domains and had thousands of followers. The Lord of Vampires had perished a long time ago. The legends said that she had been a bringer of death and destruction. She could drain a person’s vitality to strengthen herself, and if allowed to continue, she could also rob them of their skills. 

He had heard that there were still quite a few players and clans who would grind their teeth in frustration whenever they recalled the damage they had suffered from her. The sword’s artifact number was low, as it was the legacy left by a powerful being. ‘The smaller the number, the better. Artifacts with a three-digit number, especially those from and above the 300s, are among the best. What’s more, it’s a one-of-a-kind in the Tower and Tutorial. I cannot miss it.’

But hundreds of Blue Army Ants were gathered outside the entrance. ‘Even if the path looks blocked, there’s always a way around.’ Yeon-woo tied the tendons around the pouches into a single knot that could be undone if he pulled a hanging tendon and slung them over his shoulder.

"Whew!" Yeon-woo gently inhaled and quickly ran towards the entrance of the ant tunnel.

Krik! Krik! One by one, the ants noticed his presence and turned their heads towards Yeon-woo.

The one guarding the entrance let out a horrible shriek, revealing its big mandibles.

"I'm really sorry, but you need to get out of the way." In one agile gesture, Yeon-woo grabbed the pouches on his shoulder and threw them among the guard ants and into the tunnel. His aim was quite good since he had practiced throwing a lot whenever he was bored in Africa. Then, he tugged at the string, and the pouches opened one after another in midair, scattering powder all over the cave, covering it like a thick, red fog. The ants shrieked again. 

Click! Yeon-woo snapped open a Zippo lighter that he had packed in his backpack and threw it towards the powder mist. Then, he quickly crouched against the wall next to the entrance.

Boom! An explosion swept through the whole cave. A huge storm of flames tore off the walls and set the Blue Army Ants ablaze. They screamed as they burst into bits. Since Yeon-woo had made the powder from monsters with the fire property, it didn’t produce an ordinary explosion. The power of the blast nearly made the cave collapse.

[You have successfully blown up the ant tunnel. 217 of the Blue Army Ants were blasted, 89 of the Blue Army Ants were burned, and 92 of the Blue Army Ants were suffocated.]

[Additional karma will be provided.]

[You have acquired 300 karma.]

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