Chapter 18 - Black Route (7)

Yeon-woo’s body was experiencing extreme changes. Mana stimulated every corner of his body, making his internal balance collapse while restoring it at the same time. Crunch! Crackle!

A long time passed.

[Flame Heart and Frost Crest has been completed. You have acquired a new body, Reinforced Physique.]

[Affinity towards fire element has increased by 30.]

[Affinity towards water element has increased by 30.]

As always, mana scattered throughout his entire body, leaving only traces behind. Contrary to his expectations, it seemed like it would take a little longer to get accustomed to mana. But everything else had been successfully achieved.

"Whew." Yeon-woo exhaled. All of his accumulated fatigue seemed to vanish, making him feel energetic once again. “Status window.”

[Player: Yeon-woo Cha]
[Traits: Cold-blooded, Reinforced Physique]
[Strength: 81]   

[Dexterity: 83]  
[Health: 89]   
[Magic Power: 21]
[Skills: Draconic Eyes (5.2%), Sense Strengthening (25.9%), Precognition (0%), Physical Resistance (10.2%), Combat Will (7.1%), Bathory’s Vampiric Sword (3.2%)]

Yeon-woo was very pleased with his improved statistics. Thanks to the energy of the monsters he had drained using Bathory’s Vampiric Sword, his percentages had steeply risen. But what pleased Yeon-woo the most was his new trait, Reinforced Physique.

[Trait: Reinforced Physique]
[Description: Heart of flame and flesh of frost. The fire and frost element fused together grants great immunity and resistance. Fatigue does not build up easily.]
[* Flame Heart
A heart embracing fire energy. Increases cardiorespiratory endurance and healing power. Stamina is greatly increased.]
[* Frost Crest 
Makes the body tougher. Increases resistance to physical impact and curses.]

[Reinforced Physique has toughened up the body and made it tireless.]

His self-healing ability reduced the risk of suffering a serious injury during critical situations. However, there was another reason why Yeon-woo needed this trait.

[Body improvement has been confirmed. The vessel is strong enough. The interrupted succession process will resume. 6%...7%...12%...]

[Current progress: 21.3%]

[Your current status has changed from 'Incomplete Dragon Body' to 'Immature Dragon Body'.]

'I made it.' Yeon-woo clenched his fists. There were a couple of reasons why he needed this strengthened body: to gain an upper hand in the strenuous competitions of the Tower and to resume the succession process of the Dragon Body. 

The succession process required a strong vessel, which in turn relied on a Reinforced Physique. 'But this is just the beginning. I have to keep refining my vessel.’ However, the foundation was already in place so he only needed to advance steadily as he already planned.

As he enjoyed the feeling of his changed body, Yeon-woo recalled the pending system message that he had received when he first entered the dungeon. It was now time to claim his rewards.

[You have acquired 1,500 karma.]

[You have made an achievement that is not easily accomplished. Additional karma will be provided.]

[You have acquired 500 additional karma.]

[Additional rewards will be provided. Please select your reward.]

[Rewards List
* Artifacts

1. Blood-Magic Blade
2. Pearl Saber of the Deep

3. The Brave
···
* Skills
1. Kanusha's Unbreakable Spirit

2. Swift Strike
3. Snake Eyes]
···

Yeon-woo grinned as he scanned through the list of rewards. It was the first time that he’d been given the chance to select his reward, and he saw some great items that he had previously seen in the mysterious merchant’s catalog. It was a bit disappointing that he could only choose one item, but Yeon-woo didn’t concern himself with it too much. He scrolled down to the bottom of the list and found what he wanted.

[98. 2000 additional karma]

He had gotten everything possible from Section B, from Bathory’s Vampiric Sword to Reinforced Physique, and he assumed that there would be more rewards from this point onwards, so nothing else in the list grabbed his attention. What Yeon-woo lacked the most right now were karma points. Of course, even when adding them, he would still need much more karma to achieve the top score. Yeon-woo tapped on reward number 98 right away.

[2000 additional karma has been selected as your reward.]

[You have acquired 2,000 karma.]

Additional messages popped up after he received his reward.

[Your ranking in the Tutorial has been updated.]

[Do you want to register your name on the ranking list?]

“I've finally reached the ranking list.” The Tutorial provided real-time rankings of the top 300 players. There were often big announcements whenever a significant change occurred within the rankings in order to encourage the players. Although he’d made it to the top 300, Yeon-woo didn’t want to put his name on the list. It was enough to know that he’d made it, and there was no advantage in registering. It would only provoke hostility from other top rankers. He shook his head. “Deny.”

[Registration denied. You will be shown as “Unknown” in the ranking. You can change this setting at any time.]

[Tutorial Ranking]
[1. Edora (57,111 Points)

2. Phante (55,982 Points)
3. 
Kahn (50,473 Points)]
···
[281. Unknown (6,700 Points) (You)]
···

'I’m in the 281st place.' He had started late, but he was finally catching up to the top rankers. Although no one would believe that he’d managed to accumulate 6,700 karma points before passing Section B, his joy didn’t last long.

'I’m glad I’m in the rankings, but why is the gap so big?' Yeon-woo narrowed his eyes as he scrolled through the list again. "Maybe the leading players are better than I expected.” He had been told that players usually gathered around 50,0000 points at the most. His brother had collected about 52,000 karma and placed second at the end of the Tutorial. However, even though there was still plenty of time left before the Tutorial ended, there were already three people with more than 50,000 karma. 'Edora, Phante, Kahn. Who are they?’

If they had joined the Tutorial at different rounds, each of them would have achieved first place easily, but now, Yeon-woo had to compete with all of them in the same round. Yeon-woo closed the ranking list as he burned their names into his memory. ‘My progress still won’t do. I have to speed up by a lot.’

There was a gap of 50,000 karma points between him and the top rankers. Since they were also proceeding quickly, he needed to advance a lot faster. 'First things first. I have to reach Section E as soon as possible.’ The next hidden piece Yeon-woo was targeting was in Section E. It was where that guy he was looking for lived. There was nothing interesting in Section C and D, and he planned to pass through those sections as quickly as possible. As he organized his thoughts, Yeon-woo sheathed his dagger at his waist. Then, he started moving towards the exit.

* * *

“Hmm?” As he ventured down the passage to leave the dungeon, Yeon-woo narrowed his eyes and looked in the direction of the exit. He pulled his dagger out and held it tightly in his right hand. He could sense two unfamiliar figures beyond his line of vision. 'Players?'

The sounds that monsters and players made were quite different, so he was sure that he wasn’t mistaken. 'But I've never seen any other players in here.' He was wondering whether someone else had found this place. Yeon-woo had hoped not to run into anybody as much as possible, but since there was only one exit, he moved with caution.

What made Yeon-woo nervous were their skills. 'They might be tough.' His senses told him that they were at least as strong as he was. Even with Bathory’s Vampiric Sword and Reinforced Physique, he wasn’t sure that he’d win over them. 'Maybe they are after me.' Yeon-woo clasped his dagger.

He wondered why experts like them were still in Section B. It wasn’t likely that they had blindly stumbled upon the dungeon, and it made more sense to him that they were looking for revenge. It was possible that they were players from Arangdan hoping to avenge the players he had injured when he had helped Yul. Although he didn’t know why such powerful men would be lackeys in Arangdan, Yeon-woo couldn’t let them have their way, so he kept his presence hidden.

As soon as the two players turned the corner and showed their faces, Yeon-woo swung his dagger, aiming for the closest one’s head. It was a baby-faced boy with disheveled hair and sleepy eyes. Swish!

The boy noticed the attack, and his eyes widened. He instinctively tried to move away, but it seemed like his actions were too late.

"Doyle!" Just then, the young man walking next to him swung his sword as he pulled the boy to his side.

Clang! Yeon-woo’s dagger was blocked midway through its arc. It seemed to bounce off, but he realized that it had snapped in half. The young man’s sword was made of a higher-quality metal. Yeon-woo realized that his ambush had failed, and he jumped far away from the two players. He took out two more daggers.

Doyle, the boy who had just been attacked, collapsed on the floor, gasping for air with a pale face. Kahn, the other young man, flipped out and screamed at Yeon-woo. "What the hell are you doing?!"

Yeon-woo squinted at them. "Are you from Arangdan?"

"What do you mean by ‘Arangdan’?"

Yeon-woo realized the two had nothing to do with Arangdan. If they were here to attack, they wouldn’t be standing around talking to him. Besides, the reflexes that saved Doyle and blocked his dagger were those of an expert. Of course, it was possible that they were putting on an act to make him relax his guard, but an expert like this didn’t need to lie. "Then why were you following me?"

Kahn was a little surprised to discover that Yeon-woo had noticed what they were doing, but he frowned right away. “That doesn’t mean you should attack people without asking why.”

“What if you were being stalked by a stranger with unknown intentions? Wouldn’t you assume that they were up to no good, too?"

What he said made perfect sense, and Kahn was struck dumb by his reasoning. ‘The fuck? Why is he so good at speaking?’ He had believed that Yeon-woo would be the terse and silent type because of his eerie white mask. But he couldn’t just chicken out.

In the meantime, Doyle got over his shock and stood up. Even though he had been caught off guard, he had also sustained a shock at Yeon-woo’s savage eyes, whose ferocity was even more intense than in the waiting room. For a second, Kahn glared at Yeon-woo, but soon he sighed. Even though they were the ones who had been ambushed, they were responsible for the problem in the first place. He owed Yeon-woo an apology for that. Plus, he couldn’t make a bad impression of himself when he was here to recruit him.

Thud! Kahn stuck his sword into the ground and said, "I'm sorry. I didn’t think it through." Doyle also bowed his head.

Yeon-woo's eyes glittered. He thought players in general were self-centered and narcissistic, not to mention full of pride. Most of them wouldn’t admit any errors even if they were caught red-handed, but these two were innocently conceding their mistakes. Yeon-woo realized they didn't have any bad intentions, and he relaxed. As he put his daggers back, he said, "OK. State your business."

Kahn smiled mischievously and shouted with great confidence, “You should join my crew!" It was a short declaration without any reasoning or logic. Doyle turned his head away in shame.

Yeon-woo wrinkled his brow. ‘Who the hell is this moron?’

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