Chapter 210 - Philosopher's Stone (3)

Brahm rubbed his chin with his hand, his serious expression reflecting his thoughts. “And how will you pin the blame on Walpurgisnacht?”

Yeon-woo began to explain his plan, and the smile on Brahm’s face grew bigger. 

***

Yeon-woo put his mask on and left the room. Sesha stayed behind with Brahm. It would take a while for Brahm to get used to his body, and he probably had a lot to tell Sesha. Galliard, Phante, and Edora followed right behind Yeon-woo. There was anxiousness in Galliard’s eyes. “What happened with Brahm?” He was asking if Brahm’s last moments had been peaceful, not whether he had recovered. 

“He’s fine.”

“Sesha’s must have…huh?”

“Go inside and see for yourself. Sesha’s sleeping, so be quiet.”

Galliard looked at Yeon-woo with a questioning expression and quickly opened the door. His eyes widened as he saw Brahm stroking Sesha’s head. “B—”

“Shh. Didn’t you hear me tell you to be quiet?”

Galliard was so overjoyed that he didn’t know what to do with himself. He returned to hug Yeon-woo. “Thank you…so much.” Galliard didn’t know what Yeon-woo had done, but seeing Brahm healthy and Sesha smiling was enough for him. After Galliard lost his family to Akasha’s Snake, Brahm and Sesha had become his new family, and he didn’t know what he’d do if  he lost them, too. Yeon-woo patted Galliard’s back, as if telling him it was all right.

Like Brahm, Galliard seemed cold, but he was actually kind-hearted. “I’m making a fool of myself at this age.” Galliard wiped the tears in his eyes and laughed. Then, he said, gripping Yeon-woo’s shoulder, “Let’s have a drink later. I think we have a lot to talk about.”

“Yes, sir.”

Galliard nodded and entered Brahm’s room again. Yeon-woo stared at his retreating back. Galliard was Jeong-woo’s first teacher, but Yeon-woo had planned on never seeing him again after learning Shunpo from him. And yet their paths had not only crossed but intertwined once again after Galliard protected Sesha. Yeon-woo was ready to give whatever he had to someone like that.

Yeon-woo turned to look at Phante and Edora, who were openly staring at him. Unlike Brahm and Galliard, the two didn’t know anything about his background. He had thought of keeping them in the dark, but things had changed. It wouldn’t solve the situation if he postponed it even further. Yeon-woo realized that he couldn’t allow himself to be caught in the past anymore. It was time to move forward. “Phante, Edora.”

“What’s up?”

“Yes, Oraboni.”

“I have something to say to you two later, so please wait for me. I’m going to speak with the Guardian first.”

Phante and Edora nodded vehemently.

It was time for him to talk to Yvlke. Their conversation would probably determine the direction he would take, and behind the mask, Yeon-woo’s eyes hardened. 

***

A portal opened in front of Yeon-woo. 

“Ohyohyohyohyo. Would you like to come over here?” It was the invitation of a Guardian. 

Phante looked a bit surprised, and Edora looked at Yeon-woo with concerned eyes. Yeon-woo signaled that it was okay and stepped into the portal. As he did, the portal closed, and he stepped into a brightly lit space. He saw that he was in a large room with holy symbols on the walls and a red rug on the marble floor. Under a crystal chandelier, Yvlke sat at a table full of elegant teacups and waved his hand. “I’m more accustomed to seeing you in a mask. Would you like to sit here?”

Yeon-woo nodded and sat across from Yvlke, who put a cup in front of him and poured tea out. The fragrance of flowers wafted to Yeon-woo’s nose.  

Although the Guardian looked like a brutish goblin, his mannerisms and actions were truly elegant. “Ohyohyohyo. This tea is made from a rare plant found on a planet called Traville. It was made with care, so try some.”

Yeon-woo lifted the cup to his mouth. The tea had a light, clean taste and he could feel his fatigue disappear with a sip. Thanks to it, Yeon-woo could look at Yvlke with a clear mind. 

Yvlke asked with a grin. “How is it?”

“Good.”

“Ohyohyo. That’s a relief. Even though you’re always making us suffer, I always give you such nice things. Don’t you think I’m the epitome of a Guardian?”

Yeon-woo ignored Yvlke’s joke and placed the cup down. “You said you have something you want to talk about. I hope you get straight to the point.”

“It’s so hard to joke around with you.” Yvlke complained, then he clapped. A purple artifact glowed in front of Yeon-woo as a hologram appeared from it. It was a view of the twenty-third floor, which was still in the process of being restored. Some sections were still damaged and the edges were being adjusted. “As you can see, the fight between Hermes and Agares was quite intense, and so we’ve been forced to temporarily shut the stage.”

Yeon-woo’s eyes widened. The Tower had been in existence for thousands of years, but it was extremely rare for something like this to happen. However, he wasn’t too surprised at the decision to shut it down. Before he’d passed out, the stage was so devastated that it would be impossible to do a trial there. 

“On top of that, most of the players on that stage have died, so there are complaints from the clans. All Bureau business has been put on hold right now. Ohyohyo! The Bureau’s hate for you is quite enormous.” Yvlke stroked his sharp chin and continued. “Of course, according to the regulations of the Bureau, nothing will be done to you since this was something that happened while you were undergoing the trial. And we’re partly responsible for not stopping Agares, as well. Actually, it’s one of us who bears the most responsibility.”

Yeon-woo recalled Lupi of Hai approaching him on the twenty-first floor and mentioning a name. “Is it Laplace?” He was the highest Guardian of the tenth floor. 

Yvlke nodded. “You’ve guessed right. We’re still investigating what that guy was aiming for. Anyway, I wanted to confirm with you that the Bureau won’t hold you responsible. However, other clans or players might.”

“They might bear an enmity towards me.” The Large Clans had been paying attention to Brahm for a long time, and there was no way they would have missed Agares descending. At the moment, he and the others were fine because the Bureau was protecting them, but as soon as Yvlke was gone, the Large Clans would move as one against them. Since Sesha was with them, Yeon-woo had to protect them no matter what. Yvlke was warning him about this. 

It turned out that the only reason Yeon-woo and the others could rest without any worries was thanks to Yvlke. Yeon-woo grew curious about the reasons behind Yvlke’s help. Even back in the Tutorial, he couldn’t read Yvlke at all. Was it just goodwill? Or was he trying to make them indebted to him?

And if not those, then what was it? “I’m sure you didn’t stay behind just to tell me this.”

“Ohyohyohyo. Of course I’ve got a good reason to be here.” Yvlke waved his hand to rupture the hologram. The image scrambled then formed several messages. “Actually, there’s something else I need to tell you. There’s a lot of commotion right now, and it’s a bit awkward to be stuck in the middle like this.” As though he were presenting a feast, Yvlke spread his arms wide and a stream of messages began to pop up. 

[A god of <Asgard>, Heimdall, strongly requests something.]

[A god of <Deva>, Shiva, has a strong opinion.]

[A god of <Olympus>, Ares, shouts vehemently at the other gods.]

[The other gods all ignore him.]

…..

[A demon of <L’Infernal>, Amon, observes you.]

[A demon of <Jie Sect>, Tao, licks his lips.]

…..

The messages were all from gods and demons, and Yeon-woo couldn’t help frowning. “What’s this?”

Yvlke cackled. “What do you think? They’re all interested in you.”

Yeon-woo’s eyes widened. 

“Forty-one people from the godly side and fifty-five from the demonic side want you. They’re all sending requests to become closer to you.”

“Are they offering Apostle positions?” Yeon-woo calmed himself. He had already expected that the gods and demons would make their move, even though he’d received help from Hermes and Athena, injured Agares, and bound Brahm to him. However, he was surprised at how much interest he was getting. Forty-one gods and fifty-five demons meant that there was a total of ninety-six immortals interested in him.

“Yes. That’s right. If you become their Apostle, their influence on the lower floors will grow much stronger.”

“But gods like Shiva and Ares already have Apostles.” Even though gods and demons could have multiple believers, they could only have one Apostle, which was why they were so choosy and particular. 

The Apostles of Shiva, the god of destruction, and Ares, the god of war, were famous high rankers. Why would the gods be interested in him instead? “If necessary, they seem to be prepared to break the contracts they already have.”

Yeon-woo was astonished. Considering how much effort gods and demons put into nurturing a single Apostle, it was unbelievable that they would tear up their contracts just like that. ‘And they made such a fuss when Brahm was bound to me. Their actions are nothing like their words.’ Yeon-woo couldn’t help but scoff at the gods who might be stronger than humans but had the same weaknesses anyway. 

“As you already know, the minimum requirement to become an Apostle is to be a ranker.”

Yeon-woo nodded. There were three different types of rankers: Apostle, Lord, and Supernaturalist. The position was only applied after overcoming the Dragon Temple on the fiftieth floor. 

“However, they seem quite worried that it will be too late if they wait until you’ve already reached the fiftieth floor. They’ve suggested to me several times that they would like to have a provisional contract first.” In other words, they wanted to mark their territory before anyone else took it. “A few are willing to offer their powers to you as soon as the provisional contract is finished. What do you think?”

Although powers were classified as skills, they were completely different because they were the strength that symbolized the concepts of the gods and demons. Being able to use powers on the lower floors meant that you could exercise extreme strength. 

However, Yeon-woo only crossed his arms. He already had the powerful ability of the ancient dragon Kalatus, who had been stronger than the highest of gods, and so most powers weren’t that tempting to him. 

Yeon-woo was about to refuse since he didn’t plan on being bound to anyone when a thought occurred to him. Since so many gods and demons desired him, did he have to be tied to only one?

[A god of <Malak>, Azrael, is urging you to speak faster.]

[A demon of <Niflheim>, Jormungandr, looks at you with calm eyes.]

…..

In a negotiation, the side that wanted the deal more was at a disadvantage. Yeon-woo shook his head as though he weren’t interested. “No. I can’t even control the powers I have right now, and I don’t feel the need to be tied to anyone in particular.”

[A god of <Olympus>, Ares, shouts frantically.]

[A demon of <L’Infernal>, Dantalian, suggests you change your mind.]

[A demon of <Jie Sect>, Gulaganta, looks at you with annoyance.] 

…..

The gods and demons were in high positions, and it was likely that only ninety-six had expressed their interest because the lower-level ones didn’t dare show theirs. The gods and demons sent messages urging Yeon-woo to change his mind. A few of them even described the amazing powers that Yeon-woo would get if he signed a contract with them. 

Yeon-woo nonchalantly shook his head, making Yvlke laugh. He’d realized early on what Yeon-woo was doing. The kid was probably the only player to ever haggle with gods and demons like this. “Ohyohyohyo. Of course, you might be looking at the greatest treasures, but if you don’t like it, nothing can be done. What a shame. In that case, let me close the Chan—”

[A god of <Deva>, Agni, jumps up and down. He is searching for a portal onto the 24th floor.]

 [The society of gods <Olympus> is raising a complaint to the Bureau!]

[The society of demons <Jie Sect> challenges the Bureau.] 

 Yvlke was about to close the noisy Channel when Yeon-woo suddenly said at the right moment, “However.” He paused, and Yvlke immediately stopped what he was doing as though he’d been waiting for this. “I won’t refuse what you want to offer me.”

Yvlke grinned widely and looked at the Channel. Countless gazes followed him. “Ohyohyohyo. Did you all hear? That’s what player ### said. What do you want to do now?”

The loud Channel suddenly became quiet. The eyes trained on Yvlke turned sharp as they realized what Yeon-woo wanted. He didn’t want to be tied up by a provisional contract, and he was only planning to look over what they offered and decide if he wanted it or not. No one else had the balls to do this to gods and demons, but Yeon-woo was calm, as though he didn’t care. Yvlke acted as though he were about to close the Channel at any second. 

For a moment, no new messages floated up. It might be because of the gods’ and demons’ pride or they were waiting to see what the others would do. No one stepped up.

[A demon of <L’Infernal>, Agares, offers the power, ‘Wicked Devil’.]

The Channel exploded. 

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