Chapter 161 - The Monkey King's Palace (5)

Kahn and Victoria turned towards her questioningly, but Rebecca was firm. 

Cain can find his way better than I can. You should take over.

Understood. Yeon-woo read Rebecca’s Consciousness and nodded. It was better for her to bring it up instead of him offering. ‘She’s tough, but OK.’ His assessment of Rebecca changed. It was rare for high rankers to admit their limits, and only those who did could become stronger. It was important to save these kinds of players.

Yeon-woo and Rebecca switched places, and he began to lead them forward. He walked confidently, and every time the path diverged, he would head forward without any hesitation. 

Hey, you! Victoria was about to say something to Yeon-woo.

Don’t argue. You should trust him. The Hoarder’s decision is final.  Rebecca quickly spoke up on behalf of Yeon-woo. Kahn didn’t say anything. Rebecca turned to look at Yeon-woo, focusing her Consciousness on him intently. Her judgement told her to trust him, and she was proven right. 

Kaboom! Yeon-woo spotted the Monkey King’s vestige with his Consciousness every time it popped up, and he immediately used Aura to break it apart. He led them through the cave as though he’d been there before. The path he chose seemed accurate, and he moved faster than Rebecca had ever managed.

It was a deliberate choice. ‘They’ll be surprised if we move this quickly, and it might spoil their plans.’ He was hoping that the Devil Army would be forced to make a move.  

Yeon-woo and his party arrived at the end of the maze.

I think this is it.

Yeah, the signal is just past this place.

There’s something big there. Very big.

When they reached the end of the maze, they found themselves standing before an iron door about thirty meters in height. There were all sorts of ancient-looking murals and mysterious rune letters on the door, and it was hard for the others to decipher their meaning. However, Yeon-woo immediately recognized it as the final piece of the Monkey King’s legacy. He used his Dragon’s Knowledge to memorize it instantly. 

[You have succeeded in learning the entire legacy of the Monkey King. Additional karma will be provided.]

[You have acquired 3,000 karma.]

[You have acquired an additional 2,000 karma.]

Yeon-woo named it “Heaven Bracket” and stored it carefully in his mind as the others focused their Consciousness on the rune letters on the door.

Victoria, is this…? Rebecca asked Victoria to translate the rune letters.

Victoria peered at the door and slowly, the meaning surfaced:

Heaven Order Divine Iron

Ruyi Bang Seal Door

Yes, it’s the Ruyi Bang.

I didn’t think that it was actually… Rebecca exclaimed in wonder. 

The Ruyi Bang was the weapon that represented the Monkey King. It was an infinitely long staff that contained outstanding holy power. They were surprised to not only see the divine weapon they’d heard about in so many legends but also that it had taken the form of the door.

When Kahn touched the door, his eyelashes quivered lightly and his mouth went dry.

I think it’s only one part of it. Where are the other sections? Victoria was lost in scholarly fascination, but Rebecca cut her off coldly.  

Don’t do something stupid like research right now. We should retrieve Kindred’s body first. How do we open this door?

I’ve been looking for a way since we got here. Victoria tried various methods but the runes scattered apart every time. Her smooth forehead wrinkled. Divine iron.

The divine iron of the gods was legendary for its ability to suppress gods and demons. There was no way Victoria’s magic could do anything to it, and it was impossible to force open. Kahn tried to use all his strength, but it didn’t even budge. It was a wonder that Kindred had managed to open the door.

Yeon-woo moved past the others and stood in front of the door. His Consciousness had already inspected the door several times, and he’d used his Draconic Eyes to look for imperfections—only he couldn’t find a single one. It was flawless. He never thought anything like that could exist. ‘Divine iron?’ He instinctively rubbed the Black Bracelet.

When he’d shown the bracelet to Edora, she’d said that it seemed to be made of divine iron after she’d taken a look with her Insight. He’d only thought it was an interesting piece of information, but now, he felt strange. As though the Black Bracelet had read Yeon-woo’s thoughts, it vibrated. Still unsure, Yeon-woo slowly raised his hand and placed it on the door. 

At that moment, the door that had been so unyielding creaked open. The others looked at Yeon-woo in disbelief, but he only shrugged. Then, he sent his Consciousness inside. The hall beyond the door really lived up to the name “palace”. In front of them stretched a staircase with ninety-nine steps. Elaborately carved statues with monkey faces stood on each step below the topmost one, and stone figures stood guard at the sides.

The Monkey King was known as the king of the yokai monkeys, and something about the sight before them seemed to hint at how he’d ruled over his domain. Although they were only statues, the group paused uncertainly. The auras were real enough to make them fearful of entering. Each statue seemed to have power that surpassed those of Kahn and Yeon-woo and did not even fall short of Rebecca’s. However, Yeon-woo noticed something. ‘The vestige of the Monkey King has suddenly disappeared.’

The gloomy vestige was gone, but now it felt even more dangerous than ever.  

There! It’s Kindred!Victoria managed to finally trace the magic to Kindred’s body, which was in the center of the hall. There was a large stone monument around thirty meters in height in front of him. Rebecca and Kahn both moved but they stopped in their tracks when they saw the letters engraved on the monument: Seventy-Two Bian. It was the power of the Monkey King. 

Found it. Although Rebecca still seemed wary of the Monkey King’s vestige, Kahn took a big step forward as though he were possessed, his attention only on the stone monument. If I take it, then Doyle can—

Suddenly, Sol Luna appeared from out of nowhere. Hahaha! I’m taking the Seventy-Two Bian! Before Rebecca and Victoria could do anything, she laughed loudly and flew towards the stone monument. 

At that moment, a resonant voice boomed through Open Speaking. Who dares disturb the king’s eternal sleep?』 A black wind suddenly ripped Sol Luna to pieces. She didn’t even have a chance to fight back.

Kahn immediately stopped moving, but the atmosphere of the hall had already changed drastically. Creak! The statues all turned their heads at the same time, glaring at the intruders. Vestiges suddenly emanated from them, and a gust of power stormed through the hall, making the entire dungeon quake.

Ding! A message popped up.

[Sudden Quest / King’s Terracotta Soldiers]
[Description: The Monkey King has succeeded in leaving the 5th mountain after 500 years, and after his penance, he managed to shed his exuviae and become a god.
However, the yokai monsters that met the god on Mount Huaguo grew resentful at having to wait for their king again. They built an underground palace to keep his exuviae until he returned once more, and the vestiges of terracotta warriors guard the exuviae from any intruders.
Escape with the Monkey King’s exuviae and prove that you have the qualification to become the Successor of the Monkey King.]
[Condition of Participation: Attainment of hidden quest ‘Monkey King’s Palace’.]
[Reward: Qualification of 72 Bian]

[The 1st test is commencing.]

Shit! Kahn realized his mistake. He’d been blinded by his desire for the Seventy-Two Bian and hadn’t thought about the traps in the dungeon. Sol Luna had managed to awaken the statues, and Kahn quickly retreated as one of them swung a fist his way, narrowly missing him. The fist crushed the ground, pieces of stone flying around from the impact.

However, it was just getting started. The monkey statues all headed to the entrance where the group stood paralyzed, a hundred voices shouting as one: Those who disturb the king’s eternal sleep must pay with their lives!

Boom! Boom! Despite being made of stone, the statues moved quickly, leaving cratered footprints in their wake. Rebecca and Victoria instinctively sprang into action.

You can’t let them get through the door! Victoria!

Got it!

In each hand, Rebecca gripped an artifact made from Cernunnos’ horn, the Horned Sword. Although it looked like an ordinary sword, it had the power to tear open spaces, and as she jumped forward, she swung them around a statue. Boom! A piece of the statue’s abdomen broke off, but three more arrived behind him to attack.

Victoria brought her hand down and cast rune magic. Fire exploded out and blew the monkey statues away. However, only the statue that was closest to them crumbled to pieces. The other two managed to land safely despite sustaining some damage. Rebecca and Victoria moved towards them again. 

Boom! Boom! Boom!

Rebecca twirled her swords, creating a gust of wind that held off the statues. Behind her, Victoria cast rune magic to protect her. They wanted to prevent the statues from going through the door and surrounding them.

Kahn immediately understood their intention. With a deep breath, he turned, gripping his sword in his right hand. He ran his left palm along the blade until blood dripped out and smeared all over the blade. The sword turned a deep red. Cry. At his command, the sword began to wail.

<Seduction of Blood>

It was a skill that allowed a sword to consume the blood of its owner as a means of strengthening itself. It was the reason Kahn had gotten the nickname “Blood Sword”. He’d managed to develop the skill even further on the fifth mountain, and now it even had an explosive element.

As he made a powerful swing, a bloody light glowed around him, blocking the approach of the monkey statues. Kahn quickly used this opportunity to cut their heads off. He had only one purpose: to get to the stone monument.

Yeon-woo swept his hair back as he activated his Extrasensory Perception and Draconic Eyes. He split his Consciousness using Time Difference in order to assess the situation, shooting down monkey statues with his Aura at the same time.

Luckily, the huge statues at the sides of the hall hadn’t moved. He had to get rid of as many of the monkey ones before those started moving. However, the monkey statues alone were so dangerous that he thought of activating his Dragon’s Power. ‘These monkey statues are all moving because of their vestiges. We were wrong to think that we’d been dealing with the Monkey King’s vestige—it’s the vestiges of his servants!’

They should have thought more carefully about the name of the dungeon: the Monkey King’s Palace. It was a palace, not a prison. It should have been obvious that the Monkey King would have had servants, and that weak vestige that had met them had been one of them. He had completely overlooked this.

However, now that he knew what he was dealing with, everything grew smoother. All he had to do was organize his attacks. Yeon-woo expanded his Consciousness, and as the Extrasensory Perception and Draconic Eyes grew more powerful, he could see the imperfections of the monkey statues around him.

The imperfections all gathered in the statues’ nuclei, where the yokai monkeys had planted the seeds of their Consciousness. Using Time Difference, Yeon-woo found the nuclei and sent his magic power exploding towards them. Aura poured down like rain. Since his proficiency wasn’t high enough, he couldn’t damage them too much, but it was sufficient. Attack the locations I marked, please. That’s where the vestiges are.

The others were growing tired, but their eyes gleamed at his words. Things were different now that they knew of a weakness. With her Horned Swords, Rebecca turned around.

<Arrow Rain>

Her signature skill activated, and the swords exploded with fancy effects that attacked the nuclei, breaking them into pieces. Victoria performed a double casting to send out two types of magic that ate up two-thirds of the runes on her bracelet: Targeting and God’s Hammer. They hit the nuclei with incredible precision. Boom!

Lightning rained from the ceiling as the marks turned purple. The monkey statues were too strong to fall immediately to these attacks, but Rebecca and Victoria relentlessly continued their assault. Yeon-woo and Kahn flashed around the stunned monkey statues and destroyed the nuclei. After a considerable amount of time passed, the last monkey statue finally succumbed.

[You have successfully passed the 1st test. The 2nd test will begin after the countdown. Please get ready.]

[0:05:00]

[0:04:59_99]

[0:04:59_98]

....

Pant! Pant!

This is crazy.

Victoria plopped on the ground with a pale face. She had used up all her rune magic, and her magic power was completely exhausted. If she had pushed herself just a bit more, she would have damaged her mana organ. Although she managed to avoid that disaster, her desire to find a solution to the problem that continued to plague her intensified.

Also, her heart grew heavier from the message about the second test. If this kind of relentless attack continued, they would be in big trouble. Although her health was important, she also needed to find a way to replenish her magic power.

Rebecca and Kahn looked tired, too. Rebecca was gritting her teeth because she couldn’t fully access her power as an Apostle. With all her senses shut down, she couldn’t fight properly. She hadn’t even used half of her skills but had already drained her health. She felt like she was about to burst into tears. Kahn felt the same way.

Yeon-woo was doing relatively better because he’d managed to preserve his health a little more, but he was tired, too. His head was crammed with thoughts: Kindred and the Monkey King, the Seventy-Two Bian, Kahn’s attack, and the second test. They only had five minutes to think about so many things, and all he could do was catch his breath.

Hehehe, nice job, fellows. Yeon-woo and the others turned abruptly towards the voice that had spoken. A black flog slowly floated up from the pieces of stone littering the ground. It turned into Sol Luna’s head, who laughed as though she were amused.

Their faces hardened, and Rebecca’s face was particularly savage-looking. What? You’re not dead yet?

The undead don’t die easily. Keep working hard. Sol Luna quickly dissipated into the fog in case they tried to catch her. 

Rebecca cried out in fury. If she only had some strength left, she would have easily ripped the vampire apart. 

She’s received a lot of damage, so it’ll take her some time to regenerate her body. She won’t be able to do anything in the meantime, so let’s just forget about it for now.』 At Victoria’s comforting words, she managed to calm down a bit. Rebecca swore to herself that she would hunt Sol Luna down the moment she stepped out of the dungeon.

However, Yeon-woo was already doing something about Sol Luna. ‘Shanon.’

Hehe, OK. Leave it to me. I don’t like weaselly guys like that either. I’ll make her suffer a bit.

Shanon separated from the Black Bracelet and melted into the shadows. The monkey statues were all demolished, but there was still a lot of danger waiting for them. Yeon-woo didn’t want to risk any surprises from Sol Luna, thinking it was best if he could manage every variable.

He began to think. Why hadn’t the Devil Army appeared yet since the group was so clearly vulnerable right now? Was it because they hadn’t gotten what they wanted yet? ‘Or are they waiting for us outside, waiting for us to handle everything first?’ Yeon-woo thought this was the likeliest possibility. Even though he’d spread his Extrasensory Perception all throughout the cave, he couldn’t find a trace of the Devil Army. They were alone.

That meant only one thing: the Devil Army didn’t plan on interfering. They were just going to wait until the group had taken care of the traps, then swoop in to take the Ruyi Bang clues and Seventy-Two Bian. ‘That means there’s also danger waiting for us outside the cave.’

However, Yeon-woo had a feeling that he was missing something. ‘There’s something else.’ He was still lost in thought when Victoria and Kahn stood up after regaining their health. Victoria headed to Kindred’s body while Kahn headed to the monument.

Yeon-woo’s eyes followed them involuntarily. He was sure that Kindred’s body was fake. ‘I should just put aside my concerns about the Devil Army for now. There’s still the second test, and I need to focus on it. I wonder what it is.’

Victoria was examining Kindred’s body. Half of his head had been crushed, but it wasn’t difficult to identify him. However, Victoria’s face hardened when she realized that it was just a doll. Alarms began to ring in her mind.

Meanwhile, Kahn had reached the black stone monument, and he looked at the shiny blue letters on it with a tired expression: Seventy-Two Bian. He tried to memorize everything.

As he read Kahn’s Consciousness and Time Difference whirled around him, Yeon-woo continued to wonder, ‘The quest said to take the exuviae of the king. Exuviae? What is the exuviae? How are we able to prove we’re qualified to do that?’ There was something about the word “exuviae” that nagged at him. ‘Perhaps it’s a metaphor for the things the Monkey King owned before he became a god.’ His eyes suddenly widened. 

‘Seventy-Two Bian! Yeah. The Seventy-Two Bian would have only been an exuviae to the Monkey King after he completed his new masterpiece.’ The pieces of the puzzle were beginning to fall into place, and he was starting to understand what the Devil King wanted.

As Kahn touched them, the blue letters of the monument seemed to glow.

‘To prove our qualification, we have to learn the Seventy-Two Bian! And the Devil Army is going to brainwash whoever masters it to their side!’ Yeon-woo suddenly understood it all. His attention returned to Victoria and Kahn. How were they supposed to prove their qualification? If the first test was to examine their basic skills, the second test was probably to quickly understand the stone monument and use it. The examiners were right in front of them: the statues who were guarding the sides.  

However, why had the Devil Army left Kindred’s fake body in that location? There had to be a reason, and he suddenly realized what it was. ‘Pinpoint!’

[0:00:00_02]

[0:00:00_01]

[0:00:00_00]

[The countdown is finished. The 2nd test is beginning.]

The large statues began to rumble down, and Yeon-woo’s eyes shifted immediately to Victoria, who was still crouched over the fake body, looking confused. A large statue pointed its spear at her, getting ready to throw it.

Victoria!

As soon as they realized what was about to happen, Kahn, Yeon-woo, and Rebecca all hurtled towards Victoria.

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