Chapter 176 - Shadow Dojo (1)

“It’s a relief that you like it.” Henova chuckled. His usual grumpiness was gone, and he looked like he was in a good mood. There was nothing Yeon-woo could say except for “Thank you.”

***

[This is the 21st floor, gate of the shadow dojo.]

After everything was set, Yeon-woo bid farewell to the One-horned tribe and prepared to climb the Tower again. Other than a few words with the Martial King, he didn’t say much. He looked like he was busy thinking about something.

Shanon and Hanryeong didn’t say anything either. They sensed that there was something important about Yeon-woo and Henova’s relationship, and only Rebecca brought it up.

What’s your relationship with that old man?

“He’s my savior.”

Savior? Rebecca tilted her head.

Yeon-woo didn’t respond. What else could he call the only person in the Tower who missed his brother?

He seems fond of you. Like a parent. Rebecca didn’t say anything further, belatedly realizing that it was a topic she shouldn’t talk about.

Yeon-woo patted his face lightly to wake himself up. Henova was cheering him on with the armor, and it was time to focus on the Tower now. The twenty-first floor was important to Yeon-woo. 

As soon as he passed the entrance, a message popped up.

[The trial of the 21st floor is beginning.]

[Trial: A shadow has always faithfully and silently accompanied you. However, some shadows gain sentience and do what they want, such as taking other people’s bodies. Each door is divided into thirty-three sections, and each section has a shadow for you to contend with.

Choose a door and clear at least twenty sections. The more shadows you fight, the smaller their will to fight will grow.]

Yeon-woo checked the message and headed inside, knowing he would need as much time as possible to do all the sections. Suddenly, a green portal opened in front of Yeon-woo. Yeon-woo stopped walking right away. Green portals were reserved for Guardians. Who was coming?

He hadn’t seen any Guardians after meeting Laplace on the sixteenth floor, and so he was filled with curiosity. After all, the Guardians didn’t appear on the higher levels unless it was an emergency.

The frightened, teary face of a little child popped out. He seemed to be hesitant to approach Yeon-woo. However, Yeon-woo’s eyes glittered. ‘It’s Lupi of Hai, one of the Twelve Zodiacs.’

The high-ranking Guardians were known to be as powerful as high rankers, and most of them were arrogant and mysterious. However, Lupi was different. He looked terrified most of the time, and he would cry at the drop of a hat. The other Guardians were tired of him, and even players treated him as a nuisance. While the other Guardians usually provided clues about a stage, Lupi just cried.

Some girls liked him because he was cute, but those who knew of him tried to avoid him as much as possible. Although he looked timid and weak, there was a reason the Tower had chosen him to join the high-ranking Guardians.

Lupi was a hedonist. He didn’t care about anything other than thrills. The tears he spilled were only props he used to set up a performance. Why was he here? It seemed like he was here just to look for Yeon-woo.

“Are you ###?”

“Yes?”

“Y-you’re d-definitely as scary a-as I’ve b-been told.”

What kind of rumors had spread about him? Yeon-woo just looked at Lupi with a calm expression.

“I-if you look at me like that, it’s s-scares me...”

But Yeon-woo still didn’t answer. It was not a good idea to get involved with Guardians, especially Lupi. He waited until Lupi calmed down. Lupi squirmed for a while before he opened his mouth once more. “###, d-did Laplace come b-by a while ago?”

“Laplace?” Yeon-woo cocked his head to one side. Why was he looking for him?

Lupi read Yeon-woo’s expression and twitched slightly. “I-I guess he didn’t sh-show up here.”

“Is something wrong?”

“L-Laplace has been i-impeached, and he’s u-under custody. W-we’re investigating wh-where he’s b-been.”

A high-ranking Guardian impeached? Yeon-woo’s eyes widened because he had never heard of anything like this before. ‘Was it because he delivered a message to me?’ When he’d entered the sixteenth floor, Laplace had given him a message from a demon telling him to be careful of Urd. Could it be related to his impeachment?

But Guardians frequently acted as the messenger of gods and demons, so that didn’t make sense. Was there something else involved? Or was he just wildly speculating. However, he was confused because there was no reason for Lupi to look for him like this.

“I-if not, th-that’s good. Th-thank you.” Lupi opened the green portal again. Just before he stepped inside, he turned his head. “Uh, d-do you need assistance on the twenty-first f-floor?”

“Not at all.”

“A-all right then.” Lupi quickly bowed and disappeared through the portal.

Yeon-woo narrowed his eyes. It was a big deal for a member of the Twelve Zodiacs like Laplace to be impeached. He really wanted to know what was going on, but the business of the Guardians didn’t involve players. That was the Tower’s system. And so he put aside his curiosity and entered the yard.

***

“The Hoarder…”

“I hadn’t seen him for a while, but he’s back.”

“I heard he spent some time on the twentieth floor. Did something happen? I heard that the Sadhu there disappeared.”

As always, gazes followed Yeon-woo wherever he went. The rumors of what had happened on the twentieth floor had spread. However, he only fixed his mask and looked around. ‘I guess they’re not here either.’

Yeon-woo looked around with his Extrasensory Perception and a grim smile appeared on his face. He couldn’t see any trace of Kahn or Victoria. After he left the twentieth floor, he had ordered the Night Watch to look for them, but they hadn’t been able to turn up anything. In the month that he’d spent in the outer sections, he hadn’t heard anything about their whereabouts.

‘Are they on the run from the Devil Army? I don’t think so, though.’ The thing on his mind was that the Devil Army wasn’t taking any actions against him. It was possible that they were reluctant to move because he was with the One-horned tribe. ‘But if they were that cautious, they wouldn’t have the reputation of being crazy bastards.’

It was difficult to know what exactly happened in the Monkey King’s Palace, but he never let his guard down. When he entered the building on the twenty-first floor, the expressions of the other players changed when they saw him march towards the door with the lowest difficulty.

You only had to clear one door to pass, but everyone knew that Yeon-woo always chose the most difficult path. They thought something strange was going on, but Yeon-woo ignored them and opened the door.  

[You have selected the 5th door.]

[The shadows of players from the 165th to 133rd place in the 21st floor’s Hall of Fame will appear in order. If you can withstand each shadow for at least 5 minutes or defeat them, you can move onto the next section. Once you withstand or defeat at least 20 shadows, you can clear the trial.]

Five minutes didn’t seem that hard, but these were the simulations of the greatest rankers of the twenty-first floor. Although their levels would change in the future, they were still difficult to take down. It was also impossible to run away from them. And so, players often just tried to find the shadows’ weaknesses and use that against them.

However, Yeon-woo knew that he wouldn’t grow if he used the same methods, so he set limits on himself. ‘First I’ll clear all the doors completely.’

Even someone like Yeon-woo, who was in the Hall of Fame on each floor, wouldn’t find it easy to defeat the shadows in five minutes. Soon, a light appeared and he found himself in a new location surrounded by stone walls.

The battles on the twenty-first floor took place in individual dungeons, which meant that Yeon-woo didn’t have to hold back when he fought.

[The fight with Craden, 165th place, will begin soon. Prepare for the fight during the countdown.]

[00:10:00]

[00:09:59_99]

....

As the time began to tick past, a black fog appeared and slowly took the form of a human with red eyes. It was a familiar face that Yeon-woo had seen in the diary: Greed, the high ranker.

‘So this is what he looked like when he was younger.” Just like his name said, he was a greedy person who had been a big nuisance to his brother. He hadn’t joined any organization and simply wandered around taking what he liked. ‘Isn’t his speciality using fake sword techniques?’

Greed slowly pulled his sword out of its sheath, but Yeon-woo didn’t miss the way he moved his left hand behind his back. There were probably daggers on his belt.

His fighting method was similar to Yeon-woo’s, and Yeon-woo also pulled out the refurbished Carshina’s Dagger from his belt. It wasn’t possible to attack during the countdown, and he could use this time to set up magic or find an advantageous spot. However, Yeon-woo only got Carshina’s Dagger and the Magic Bayonet ready.

What do you want me to do? Rebecca appeared with her arms crossed. Yeon-woo could make the Guai, the undead army, or the spirits help him out, but he had no intention of doing so.

“Just stay there. I have to take care of this myself.” Yeon-woo shook his head firmly. 

Rebecca nodded and stepped back with another look at Yeon-woo. She knew Yeon-woo had hidden powers, but she didn’t know what they were. Since he was her new master, she wanted to check to see if he needed her help.

[00:00:00_02]

[00:00:00_01]

[The countdown is complete. The trial of the 1st section is beginning.]

Yeon-woo hit the ground as a blistering heat whirled around him. 

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