Chapter 16 - Black Route (5)

[Number of monsters hunted: 543]

The dungeon shook so violently that dust fell from the ceiling. Startled by the sudden quaking, monsters broke out of their hiding places. Yeon-woo rushed into the tunnel to take advantage of their confusion, holding his dagger in a reverse grip. The scorching heat and flames made it dangerous to pass through the tunnel, but Yeon-woo held his breath and focused all of his senses on the ant tunnel.

[Combat Will]

[Sense Strengthening]

Whoosh!
 As soon as he activated his skills, time seemed to stretch out. As his senses reached their maximum level, the information about his surroundings rushed into his brain, helped along by his heightened concentration. A terrible headache usually followed this state, but thanks to all the practicing he did, he could endure it. 'I can only last five minutes in this state!'

Swish! Yeon-woo rushed towards the struggling ants and put them out of their misery. Even the screeching ants running towards him were seriously burned, and it wasn’t hard to get rid of them. 'It's a shame I can't eat all the hearts here.’ Still, he got to kill plenty of monsters in one go, so it wasn’t too much of a loss. Besides, there were enough ants who had died of suffocation or were even still alive. He could harvest their intact hearts later.

Although the explosion had swept through the tunnel, nearly half of the ants survived the calamity. Most of the dead were larvae or eggs that had yet to hatch. Therefore, many worker ants were still alive. 'I can still clean this up after I get Bathory’s Vampiric Sword. Right now I have to focus on…’

Krik! An ant that was at least five times bigger than an average Blue Army Ant ran towards Yeon-woo. 'The Ant Queen!' The Ant Queen was furious at the criminal who had destroyed her nest.

[A boss monster, the Blue Army Ant Queen has emerged.]

If she were in optimal condition, Yeon-woo would have had no chance of winning. However, two of her legs had been blown away, and her wings were torn into bits. Her exoskeleton smoked from the burns she’d sustained, and her remaining eye blazed in anger. 

Clomp! Clomp! The ground shook with every step she took. Yeon-woo felt a pressure that was even more intense than the one he’d experienced with the Red O-Gong. 'Four minutes.'

Yeon-woo searched for the gate, but it wasn’t easy to find since the tunnel was too wide. The Ant Queen swung a leg towards him, and Yeon-woo swiftly rolled on the ground, narrowly dodging the attack.

In the meantime, he continued searching for the gate. 'Three minutes.' Time was ticking, but Yeon-woo’s senses finally noticed something: a small gate hidden just beyond the charred ant eggs. 'That must be it!' However, knowing the gate’s location didn’t mean that the Ant Queen was about to let him pass. 

'Two minutes.' The use of Thought Acceleration through Combat Will and Sense Strengthening gave him the ability to make quick decisions, but the headache and dizziness that came afterwards were too debilitating. If they appeared while he was still grappling with the ants in the cave, he’d be in serious trouble. Yeon-woo drew three daggers from his waist and threw them at the Ant Queen. Clang!

Krik! The Ant Queen smoothly deflected the daggers and screeched derisively. However, she didn’t expect a fourth dagger to arrive behind the others. Swish! Thunk! It penetrated deeply into the Ant Queen’s remaining eyeball. Kriiik! The Ant Queen went into a frenzy.

'One minute left, gotta move now!' Yeon-woo skidded underneath the belly of the Ant Queen all the way to the other side, severing two of her legs as he slipped past.

Thud! The Ant Queen tilted forward, and her head slammed onto the ground. The other ants started to assemble to protect their queen, making the cave shake under their feet. However, he’d already reached the gate just as a massive headache and dizziness descended on him. The Thought Acceleration had finally worn off. While holding in his vomit, Yeon-woo quickly entered the gate and closed it behind him. Clang! The gate shut just before the ants could reach him, cutting them off completely.

[You have entered the Temple of The Vampire Lord.]

"Whew." As soon as he saw the message, Yeon-woo leaned against the wall, taking a second to catch his breath. Clang! Clang! Clang! The ants banged at the gate, and he could also hear the Ant Queen's occasional screeches. He didn’t know whether the temple and the ant tunnel were in separate dimensions or if there were some kind of aura keeping them from entering the temple. They pounded on the gate without even trying to break through.

Yeon-woo looked around once his headache subsided. He was inside a small room that was around seventy square meters of space. It had high ceilings, and a beam of light streamed down from above, illuminating an altar which glowed with a crimson light. Five steps led up to the altar, and ominous green fire blazed in bronze braziers on each side. The statue in the middle of the altar was of a woman with snake-like hair and long, sharp fangs. Her eyes were so lifelike that it seemed as though she were alive.

“Bathory, the Lord of Vampires.” Yeon-woo looked at her face and soon turned his gaze towards the sword in her hand. It was about thirty centimeters long, and it had a reddish hilt and an azure blade shaped like a lightning bolt. “That should be the most prized weapon of the Lord of Vampires.”

[Bathory’s Vampiric Sword]
[Number 352]

[Classification: One-handed Weapon]
[Rank: Unique]

[Description: The Vampire Lord’s most prized weapon. It has the ability to drain the blood of its opponent. The spirit of its previous owner resides within the sword, so it will personally choose its wielder. If the sword doesn’t approve of its wielder, it will constantly try to take over the wielder’s mind.]
[* Blood Mark
If the target is struck with a critical blow, the target will be inflicted with ‘Bleed’. Targets affected by ‘Bleed’ will sustain a certain percentage of damage over time.]
[* Power of the Vampire Lord
Ability locked. (Sealed)]

Yeon-woo clenched his fist. He’d finally found Bathory’s Vampiric Sword, the hidden piece that would narrow the gap between him and the frontrunners. The sword held the legacy of the Vampire Lord, so he believed it would help him grow steadily even after he advanced into the Tower. 'And that’s not all.' Yeon-woo's eyes turned to the last option marked “locked”. Even without this option, Bathory's Vampire Sword was already remarkable. Not only could it inflict great damage, its Blood Mark option was above average. Even so, the real value of the artifact lay in the sealed option. 'Only when this option is unlocked can it be called a true Vampiric Sword.”

Yeon-woo began to climb the stairs as the corners of his mouth turned up in a smile. He felt as if the eyes of the statue were watching him carefully. Yeon-woo gave it a respectful nod and put his hand on Bathory’s Vampiric Sword.

“Huh?” Yeon-woo felt something hot, sticky, and alien pierce his palm and squeeze into his body.The veins of the hand touching the sword bulged all the way up his arm as though they would burst any moment as his arm turned a dark red. He could see a black thing crawling inside his veins. Yeon-woo gritted his teeth from the enormous pain. The information window’s assertion that the sword would personally choose its wielder popped into his head.

The Lord of Vampires was known as the most avaricious being of all time. Even though I’ve never met her, everyone who has spoken with her was shocked by it, and she was often compared to the Devil Archduke. If so, then how avaricious would the sword she left behind be?

In order to properly wield the sword, he had to constantly be on guard against the threat that it posed to him. However, players who had just entered the Tutorial weren’t always capable enough to suppress the threat, which was why many players who had found the sword suddenly evaporated into thin air.

If the sword is meant to be found by beginners, what can they do to handle it? One day, I had an idea: since the sword is a hidden piece, what if there’s a secret way to manage it, just like there’s a secret way to eat white moss?
 
After researching for a long time, his brother had found a way for beginners to deal with Bathory’s Vampiric Sword, which was a kind of hidden piece in itself. "Hidden piece of a hidden piece." Yeon-woo spat curses at the designer who had set a trap for players. He lifted up the sword and stabbed the back of his left hand. If anyone saw him, they would think he was crazy. 
However, the black energy that was climbing to his right shoulder began to withdraw. Hiss! It poured down his arm rapidly until it congealed around his left hand. Bathory’s Vampiric Sword seemed to twist itself, then it began to melt, winding around his hand as though it were being transplanted.

There is a secret to Bathory’s Vampiric Sword. Although it looks like a weapon and is described as an artifact in the tooltip, it has a true form that it hides from players.

'If you have to choose your wielder, I will force you to choose me.'

It’s a skill. Bathory’s Vampiric Sword is a skill that is extremely difficult to master. 

The Lord of Vampires was so avaricious that she didn’t want her most prized weapon to pass onto others even after her death, and so she sealed off the sword’s real form and ability. It was only now that someone managed to lift the seal.

Hiss. Bathory’s Vampiric Sword had melted away completely, but Yeon-woo's left hand looked no different. The ominous black energy was also nowhere to be seen. Yeon-woo grinned and stretched out his left hand. It was empty, but as soon as he focused his senses, black energy streamed out of his palm. Whoosh! It gathered into a lump, then spread out in a vortex, taking the shape of bestial jaws full of serrated teeth. Clank! The jaws opened and closed repeatedly.

[The seal has been lifted.]

[(True) Bathory’s Vampiric Sword]
[Number 66]

[Proficiency: 0.0%]
[Description: The Vampire Lord’s most prized weapon’s true form. It can drain the life energy from its opponents and devour their souls.]
[
[* Blood Mark
If the target is struck with a critical blow, the target will be inflicted with ‘Bleed’. Targets affected by ‘Bleed’ will sustain a certain percentage of damage over time.]
[* Power of the Vampire Lord
Drain the target’s energy and extract a portion of the target’s attribute points. If proficiency reaches its maximum, the target's skills can also be stolen.]

Number 66! Even high rankers would have to work their fingers to the bone to obtain a numbered skill, but Yeon-woo had already managed to acquire a unique skill at this point in time. 

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