Chapter 19 - Black Route (8)

Not only had they appeared out of nowhere, they were asking Yeon-woo to join their team. Yeon-woo scrutinized Kahn with an expression that clearly wondered what kind of person he was. Doyle nudged Kahn in the ribs with his elbow.

"Ow! Why?"

"Stop doing that. Don’t you feel ashamed?"

"Of what?" Kahn was puzzled, not understanding what he had done.

As Doyle sighed deeply, Yeon-woo decided they were not worth talking to, and he began walking past Kahn and Doyle while adjusting his backpack.

"Hey, dude! Where are you going? We’re not done talking yet!" Kahn grabbed Yeon-woo in a hurry.

Yeon-woo stopped and looked back. "What? Do you have anything else to say?"

"You haven't given us an answer. I want you to join my team!"

Yeon-woo gave a little snort. He didn’t want to speak with this fool anymore, and he replied indifferently, “No.”

"Why?"

"I have no idea what you guys are up to, and I don’t see any advantages in teaming up with you."

Kahn looked genuinely surprised. "Wait, you don’t know who I am?"

"No."

"What? Why?" He was talking as if it were very obvious. "But…how? You really don't know who I am? I mean, it’s me! How can you not recognize me? I’m, like, the biggest star in the Tutorial!" Kahn was making a fuss over Yeon-woo’s reaction as if he had just experienced something incomprehensible.

Yeon-woo's indifferent expression was slowly being replaced with anger. Doyle watched Yeon-woo’s reaction and began to worry that they might end up with nothing, so he decided to come forward, speaking to Yeon-woo in a polite tone. "I apologize if we have offended you. My brother is very passionate about himself, so he tends to be self-absorbed and act a little foolish. It is sometimes really exhausting to talk with him. But he’s not a bad person, so I hope you understand."

Kahn’s expression clearly showed that he didn’t know what he’d done wrong, but as Doyle glowered at him, he shut his mouth.

The younger one sounded much smarter than his brother. Yeon-woo nodded as he looked at Doyle, thinking they could now carry on with the conversation. "I’m listening, but make it short."

"Let us introduce ourselves. I'm Doyle, and this foolish one over here is my brother, Kahn."

"Doyle? Kahn?" Their names were familiar to Yeon-woo. "Tutorial ranking eleventh and third?"

Doyle smiled shyly. "It’s a little embarrassing when you put it like that."

Under the mask, Yeon-woo was a little surprised. Kahn was in third place and Doyle was in eleventh place, but why were these high rankers, who should have been far ahead in the Tutorial, in a place like this? For a minute, he wondered if they were frauds.

"Well, I understand your suspicions about our presence here. You’re probably thinking we ought to be in Section E or F by now…"

"No. I believe you're Doyle and Kahn."

"Huh? Really?"

Yeon-woo nodded silently. They didn’t have a reason to lie to him, and he also had the Draconic Eyes to help him figure out if they were telling the truth. He examined them with his skill, which he’d only recently realized could show that those with negative or hostile thoughts had darker and more numerous imperfections compared to those who were friendly.
This helped Yeon-woo have a better grasp of people’s thoughts and emotions and was also helpful during monster hunts. Kahn’s and Doyle’s imperfections were light in color, which meant that they were telling the truth. Yeon-woo asked with his arms crossed, “Why are players like you, who should be busy clearing the Tutorial and stacking up karma, all the way back here in this section to recruit a player like me?"

Doyle scratched his cheek. He’d wanted to keep the reason a secret, but since it would be hard to persuade Yeon-woo, he decided to share as much as he could. He was prepared to subdue Yeon-woo if he tried to pull any kind of nonsense. "Before we get into this, I must ask you something."

"What is it?"

"Do you belong to any team or clan?"

"No."

Doyle's face lit up at Yeon-woo’s response. Kahn also said “Oh!” in amazement. "That's great. You see, there's an artifact we want to get in Section E, but we need at least three people in our team.”

"Why don’t you recruit someone from Section E?”

"By the time players reach the later sections, they’ve usually joined a team or a clan.”

Yeon-woo was starting to get an idea of what was going on. Since they were top rankers in the Tutorial, they had to move cautiously to prevent any information about the hidden piece from spreading. They couldn’t risk recruiting players from other teams because their plans might leak, so they had believed they had a better chance of finding solo players in Section B. ‘Did they use tickets to travel back to earlier sections?’ Yeon-woo presumed it wasn’t the same reset ticket he had used before. They probably had a pass that allowed them to travel freely around the Tutorial. It was likely they’d bought a one-time use one since it was also costly. 

‘It’s hard to check players’ skills in Section A. They must have found me during their search in Section B.' Perhaps since he passed Section A on his own and beaten Kaen’s team, they’d taken notice of him. Yeon-woo didn’t know he would draw attention this way, so he chuckled a little bit. "So there is an artifact in Section E so hard to acquire that even the third and eleventh rankers need extra help. Is this correct?"

"Yes, I can't tell you the details, though.”

Yeon-woo nodded and thought to himself. ‘It looks like they need Hargan's Crown.’ There were several hidden pieces in Section E. Fortunately, the one they wanted was different from what Yeon-woo was after.

The Lizardman King named Hargan dwells below the point where three trees are entangled in Section E. We had a hard time raiding his lair.

It was a hidden piece his brother and his team Arthia had also found. His brother mentioned that the chief of the Lizardman tribe, Hargan, was very difficult to deal with. There was also a huge number of Lizardmen warriors guarding their chief, which made it an even bigger headache. Furthermore, the rewards were too small considering the amount of effort needed, and his brother had been so angry that he’d noted it down in his diary. Because of this, Yeon-woo had thought of avoiding Hargan's Lair. There was no need to waste his limited time on such a worthless area. He would rather look for a different hidden piece and gain more karma and rewards.

Hargan’s Crown was practically worthless to Yeon-woo. ‘It has an option that increases Dignity and Leadership. I don't really need those.' Yeon-woo was a lone wolf and no matter how many enemies he faced, he overwhelmed them all like a one-man army.

Commanding an army and having a lot of teammates might be useful to others, but it didn’t suit him. Even when he had gone on missions, he only brought a few subordinates and never directed large-scale operations. Besides, his younger brother had been betrayed by his own trusted teammates. The law of the jungle prevailed in the Tower. Anyone who dropped their guard would get eaten alive, and he didn’t want to risk it.

Even if he had teammates, he wouldn’t have more than a couple—a manageable number that was also easy to break off. Yeon-woo had no interest in Hargan's Crown, which seemed to be helpful only for the commander types.

"You won’t be disappointed with the compensation. We can also adjust the conditions if you need anything else. How does this sound? I'm sure it's not a bad deal, even for you.” 

Kahn and Doyle were clearly desperate to head to Section E as soon as possible. They would try to help Yeon-woo by any means necessary, and he could quickly raise his ranking and even find a hidden piece if he teamed up with them. 

There were also the advantages of being acquainted with two players who would become super-rookies once they finished the Tutorial. He might be able to join the team these two would end up organizing and form an influential clan inside the Tower. ‘If I were a regular player, that would be a good situation.' However, Yeon-woo didn’t really need their help and definitely didn’t need a team. They would only get in his way. He had to keep looking for the other hidden pieces, and he couldn’t afford to be distracted. 

Yeon-woo was about to turn down their offer when an idea suddenly occurred to him. ‘It wouldn’t hurt to help them just for a little bit, would it?’ After all, he had planned to skip Section C and D anyway. He had his own matters to handle in Section E, but he could help those two first. Hunting Hargan wouldn’t be easy, but if he could cooperate with rank number three and rank number eleven, a quick raid didn’t sound impossible. No matter how worthless it was, a hidden piece was still a hidden piece. He would be able to collect a large amount of karma with the raid, and it wouldn’t be a bad deal if he only needed to exert a little bit of effort. "Okay. I’ll help you, but on one condition."

Doyle smiled broadly as if approving Yeon-woo’s decision. "What is it?"

"Apart from the artifact you need, I'd like to take all the other rewards."

"Hmm."

It wasn’t an easy matter. Of course, Hargan's Crown was the most important item for them, but Doyle did not know what other rewards were waiting at Hargan's Lair, and he didn’t want to make a hasty decision. He looked at Kahn, who nodded silently. Whatever the conditions were, the only thing that mattered was that it would be a quick raid. They didn’t need anything other than the crown. Doyle gave him a knowing look and said to Yeon-woo, "OK, it’s all yours. However, you must show us what you have."

“To be honest, I know you are going to recruit someone else or even abandon me if I don’t meet your standards."

Doyle laughed awkwardly as if he had hit the bull’s eye. "Hehe, we're not that cruel, you know."

Kahn moved forward, as if he couldn’t wait to talk with him any longer. He then cracked a smile and held out his hand. "Haha! Anyway, it’s so good to meet you. So, tell me your name, bro."

Yeon-woo could clearly tell the kind of personality Kahn had. He was an egocentric man who loved to talk—basically, someone really tiring. But for the time being, he was stuck with this guy, so he bit his lips and grabbed his hand. He realized he hadn’t said his name, and just as he was about to speak, he paused. 

He reminded himself that this was another battlefield. He didn’t have to reveal his real name. Instead, he gave them his code name, the one he’d used on the battlefield. "Cain." Yeon-woo’s eyes were resolute. "I'm Cain."

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