Chapter 196 - Demons' Forest (11)

“It’s coming.” Phante and Edora reacted right away to Yeon-woo’s words, turning around and looking up from checking their equipment. Lightning sparked around Phante, and Edora quietly drew her sword.

Lao didn’t understand what they were doing. He hadn’t felt anything at all, and his skill, Nine Snakes’ Eyes, usually sensed danger quickly. He thought that Yeon-woo had been mistaken. The Ceratopsian Dinosaur was even more powerful than the Kraken, and even though the Hoarder was strong, all players would be nervous facing the monster. There were rumors that Yeon-woo had caught the Kraken on the twenty-second floor on his own, but the Blood Land thought it was impossible. ‘And if it’s not, I can confirm the Hoarder’s skill this time.’

He wanted to observe everything, from Yeon-woo’s traits and skills to his properties and even the artifacts that he used. Marquis Caliburn hadn’t sent him here for nothing. So until the Ceratopsian Dinosaur arrived, he was supposed to stay by De Roy Lake. 

‘Mm?’ Lao’s eyes widened when bubbles started appearing on the surface of the lake. ‘He was right?’ Lao couldn’t believe that Yeon-woo had managed to sense something that he hadn’t been able to, but he immediately reacted. “Everyone, to your positions! Beware of attacks from the outside!”

He knew that the Elohim was aiming for Yeon-woo, and it was likely that they would attack when the dinosaur appeared while everyone was busy. The players of the Blood Land all lifted their shields and shouted out, “The shouts have stopped, and the red flag has been raised. Like the manifestation of battle…!”

<War Song of Victory>

This was a clan skill that all players in the Blood Land could use, and it buffed players to increase their resistance to curses. However, it had an additional, lesser-known benefit. As the players sang the song, the buff increased and put everyone under a mass hypnosis. It connected their senses and minds and turned them all into the sword of whoever was in charge. They would become brave warriors without any fear of death, which was why those who fought the Blood Land did their best—often unsuccessfully—to prevent them from using this skill.

As a thick magic circle wrapped around them, the unusual feeling of having thirty players in his hands swept over Lao. He was ready to act against any attacks. Suddenly, something soared up through the surface of the lake. It was a monster around eighty meters high. It looked down on them, so close that they could only see its shadow. Lao cocked his head to one side to look at the entire creature.

It was four-legged, with a neck and tail larger than its body. Its skin looked tough, and it didn’t seem like even a sword would pierce through it. It announced its arrival with a loud roar.

Yeon-woo instantly spread his Fire Wings and flew towards the head of the creature. Phante and Edora quickly clambered onto its body and ran towards the head as well. Lao left his subordinates to guard and watched the scene with magic power focused in his eyes. 

It was also a good opportunity to observe the heir presumptive and princess of the One-horned tribe. However, at that moment, the Ceratopsian Dinosaur opened its mouth and swallowed Yeon-woo and the siblings down with a single gulp. 

‘What’s this?’ Lao’s face hardened at the unbelievable sight. He thought Yeon-woo and his friends would force themselves out, but there was no reaction. ‘They’ve been eaten?’

Something strange was going on, and Lao was extremely confused. 

***

“Ugh. This is disgusting.” Phante scowled at the slime all over his body. Even though he tried to remove it, the smell still lingered on him. If Yeon-woo hadn’t told him to do it, he never would’ve tried being swallowed by the monster. “I guess it’s a bit interesting. A demon’s a demon after all,” Phante muttered to himself as he looked around at the red sky, the vast horizon, and the scattered yellow leaves.

He never would have expected that he would encounter this inside the stomach of the Ceratopsian Dinosaur. At first, when Yeon-woo had told them that the plan was to get eaten, he thought that Yeon-woo was only joking. Who would intentionally get eaten during a raid? You could enter the monster’s stomach and swing your sword around, but that was stupid. The monster’s teeth would crush you and its digestive juices would eat away at you before you even got to do any of that.  

However, Yeon-woo had been serious, saying that if they slew the monster like everyone else, they would lose the most important section. Phante had wondered what it was, and Yeon-woo had answered, “Its Magic Core.” 

The Magic Core was usually the heart or the Neidan, and Phante knew that the Ceratopsian Dinosaur’s heart would come out if you slit its throat. However, Yeon-woo had explained that it wasn’t entirely accurate. “There are five organs that function as the Ceratopsian Dinosaur’s heart. It has only one its body, and the other four are kept in its mind.”

Yeon-woo had called it a hidden piece within a hidden piece. Since Phante trusted him anyway, he’d gone through being eaten, and it looked like Yeon-woo was right. ‘Five…”

Ceratopsian Dinosaurs were supposed to be in the process of turning into a demon from a Demonic species. If so, it made sense that it would have a complex consciousness. ‘Is it something like an illusory world?’ Phante grew nervous thinking of the illusory world that Brahm made. The creator of the world was king, and the penalties for intruders could be extreme.

However, since this place wasn’t as complex as the one Brahm had set up, it was more like a vestige space than an illusory world. It wouldn’t be too difficult to clear it, especially since there were three of them.

Thinking that he had to stay alert, Phante slapped his cheeks lightly and looked around. A lot of time had already passed, but he was the only one there.“Where is that guy? He couldn’t have gone the wrong way with Edora?”

“Why are you muttering to yourself like a crazy person?” At that moment, Yeon-woo landed next to him, heat emanating around him even as his Fire Wings disappeared. Edora was right by his side, looking as though she were so happy that she could die.

“You’re here already? Why do you look like that?” Edora frowned at Phante, who was smirking. “What’s with that nauseating face?”

“Nothing. I was just thinking that you should’ve gone to the stomach instead.”

Edora mouthed the words ‘You want to die?’ behind Yeon-woo, her fist raised. Of course, Phante pretended like he hadn’t seen anything and looked at Yeon-woo, who was holding something the size of a human head. It looked like he’d ripped it off from somewhere.

“What’s that in your hand?”

“A heart.”

“Hm? Wait, it hasn’t even been that long since we came in here.” Phante shook his head. This guy grew more outstanding the more you watched him. Phante had still been gathering his wits and it seemed like Yeon-woo had already found one of the hearts.

Yeon-woo threw the Magic Core on the floor as though it were rubbish. A message popped up.

 [You have discovered the ‘Heart (Core)’.]

[Hidden Quest / Ceratopsian Monster Annihilation]
[Description: De Roy, a demon hunter studying De Roy Lake, discovered that Demonic species occasionally battled each other to determine their hierarchy.
The Demonic species that come to this location are all predators and they attack and eat each other until there is only one left. Those that reach this point grow one step closer to becoming a demon. They absorb the energy of the lake to transform into Ceratopsian Dinosaurs.
The dinosaur is so tough that it can regenerate its own heart, and a lot of effort is required to kill it. You have jumped into the dinosaur’s consciousness with great courage. From this point onwards, avoid the attacks of the consciousness while looking for the rest of the hearts. Only after you find all five can you escape from this area. If you fail, you will be trapped in here forever, and be absorbed by the dinosaur.]
[Qualifications of Participation: De Roy Lake visitor, participant in the Ceratopsian Dinosaur raid.]
[Time limit: 5 hours]
[Rewards:
1. Hearts of Ceratopsian Dinosaur (5)
2. Horn and Leather
3. Demon hunter De Roy’s records + ???] 
[Hearts Currently Found: 1/5]

The demon hunter De Roy was one of the first players and discovered the secret of the twenty-third floor. He also created Demonic Studies after finding out the relationship between Demonic species and demons. It’s said that De Roy’s records were useless since they only chronicled what he saw every day.

“October second. Clear. Dug the seventeenth floor. There was nothing here. October tenth. Cloudy. Dug seven meters deep. I think I didn’t dig in the right area…”

It was all information like this, but Vieira kept on saying that we had to gather all of the records. She said it was necessary to learn Demonic Studies. 

Catching the Ceratopsian Dinosaur was a hidden piece, and understanding the secret of the records was another hidden piece. His brother had received help from Vieira Dune to learn Demonic Studies so they could contact demons and learn new magic.

De Roy liked magic studies, but after some problems with the Magic Tower, his investigations were taken away from him. However, his records were more detailed than his notes. ‘Learning magic from a dragon and a demon at the same time…he’s my brother, but he’s crazy.’

His brother had met an incredible demon: ‘The Grand Demon Duke of the East, Agares.’ He was one of the four pillars of the demonic society better known as L'Infernal's Seventy-Two Demons, and Agares was ranked second of them all. 

His brother had received the favor of both the ancient dragon Kalatus and the Grand Demon Duke Agares, and so it was no wonder he had grown so fast. Of course, Yeon-woo didn’t plan on actually making a contract with a demon just because he learned Demonic Studies.

Demonic Studies wasn’t about selling your soul to a demon. There were a lot of methods around this. His brother had borrowed Agares’ strength without signing his soul away. Like him, Yeon-woo had his own plans for Demonic Studies.  

‘After Sesha becomes healthy again, I can use the demon we catch to complete the Philosopher’s Stone.’ Since he had Brahm’s transmutation circle, Yeon-woo was already thinking about completing the Philosopher’s Stone using Demonic Studies.

Of course, it might not all go as Yeon-woo planned. Unless the demons were fools, they would know that Brahm was coming after them. However, Brahm was anticipating that and planned out several different strategies. Yeon-woo had helped him as they set the transmutation circle up, and he deserved to take something away from it. 

Also, Yeon-woo and Brahm were confident that they could catch a demon. Once they did, getting the Demonic Factors and De Roy’s records were necessary. 

[New Demonic species are appearing.]

[Warning! Survive the demonic outbreak.]

A black tide of thousands of Demonic species was heading their way, ready to eat them up. Phante and Edora seemed nervous at their numbers, but Yeon-woo had an easy way to get rid of them. He spread out his left hand. Bathory’s Vampiric Sword revealed its hungry mouth filled with serrated teeth. Clack, clack. “Devour.”

Yeon-woo put his left hand on the ground and the teeth sank in to begin an energy drain.

The world shook. 

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