The beautiful children started to bustle around and set the table. Anastasia sat in a corner, looking at her disciple, Victoria. She was dressed properly now, but instead of looking more presentable, she appeared even more seductive.
Yeon-woo looked at Anastasia, the children, and then Victoria. From what he’d been told, the children weren’t just servants but also bound to her. He could feel a monstrous energy emanating from them, and even just a few would already be difficult for him to deal with.
The Gumiho, who was a Legendary Beast and Demonic Beast with nine tails, had the power to do this. In fact, Anastasia was strong enough to stand next to high rankers. If she had continued fighting him, Yeon-woo might not have a chance to finish the Philosopher’s Stone.
Yeon-woo had assumed that Anastasia was a player, but now he realized that she was more than that. She was a Mythical Human, someone who had merged with a Legendary Beast. Players who cleared the eleventh floor had Mythical Beasts, but unless one had a taming skill like that of a summoner, most people only used their magic power to strengthen themselves. Besides, most of the floors weren’t suitable places for Mythical Beasts, and they might get injured.
However, there were players who wanted to grow quickly by merging with their beasts to form a new type of entity. They were usually called Mythical Humans. They were interesting but not rare since most players would do anything to become strong.
What was different about Anastasia is that, unlike other players, she seemed more Legendary Beast than human. The monstrousness of her magic power was proof of it.
Edora stood a foot behind Yeon-woo and Victoria, glaring at Anastasia, as if she didn’t like something. They had moved to a new location after the roof of the building collapsed.
“How have you been?”
Victoria couldn’t really reply, even when Yeon-woo asked her what happened after they were separated. Her hesitance made it clear that she didn’t want to think about what had happened.
Before Yeon-woo could keep asking questions, Anastasia exuded her monstrous energy as though she wanted to stop him. Just then, blue energy gathered in front of Yeon-woo and Rebecca appeared. 「Victoria.」
“Rebecca?” Victoria’s eyes widened. She had seen Rebecca die in the Monkey King’s Palace. How could she appear here?
“Is she a spirit?” Unlike the surprised Victoria, Anatasia looked at Rebecca with an amused expression as she lit her pipe. White smoke floated up into the air.
「Poor Victoria. You must have suffered so much. I understand what you’re feeling but can you tell us what happened? I think I deserve to know that much.」
Rebecca had sacrificed her life to save Victoria, and Victoria hadn’t been able to shake off the nightmarish incidents to this day. She’d spent her days dogged by guilt over Rebecca and Yeon-woo, whom she believed had lost their lives because of her.
Although Victoria was said to be an outstanding rune magician, after knowing her for such a long time, Rebecca knew all too well that Victoria had a frail heart.
Drip! Tears streamed down Victoria’s cheeks now that she could see Yeon-woo and Rebecca for herself. Although Rebecca was a spirit, it was still comforting to see her. “That day…” Victoria began to describe what happened in a weak voice. She looked exhausted. She and Kahn had escaped the palace thanks to Yeon-woo, only to be chased by strange people they didn’t recognize.
“You couldn’t tell who they were?”
“No. They hid their identities well. However, I’m sure that they’re not from a small clan.”
‘Could they have been from the Devil Army?’ Yeon-woo wondered.
“We were chased like that for several days and then, Kahn stepped up.” Their pursuers wouldn’t let up, and Kahn and Victoria realized that they were in grave danger. They didn’t have any place to turn to. Kahn made a decision to face them so that Victoria could escape.
She’d tried to stop him, but Kahn only smiled grimly and made her pass out. When she opened her eyes again, Kahn and their pursuers were gone. “I searched for Kahn, but I couldn’t find him, not even a single trace. And this is embarrassing, but…” She should have continued looking for Kahn, but her overpowering fear forced her to leave the twentieth floor. She’d gone to look for her teacher, but she’d never been able to recover from her trauma.
Rebecca, Yeon-woo, and Kahn—the Sadhu who had trained with her—all died because of her. Even Kindred, whom she’d believed was her friend, had tricked her. These things caused her mental defenses to collapse, even if she was a great magician.
Till now, Victoria kept looking around anxiously even though her teacher was protecting her. Showing herself like this was difficult for her.
Eventually, Anastasia extended her hand to Victoria. The smoke from her pipe swirled around Victoria, and she fell asleep. Anastasia got up to sit next to Victoria. As she stroked Victoria’s head, she ordered Yeon-woo, “I don’t know why you’ve come here, but this child can’t handle anything right now, so go away.”
Yeon-woo nodded. There was nothing he could do. If he took Victoria back to the village, her condition would only grow worse.
「I’ve never seen Victoria like that before.」
Rebecca was still shocked as they left the building. Most Sadhu who spent several years with all their senses blocked had excellent mental strength, and she’d believed that Victoria was like that, too. Although she had been a bold and self-centered magician, she also possessed a warm heart. She was Rebecca’s only friend and seeing her in this state caused pain to Rebecca.
Meanwhile, Yeon-woo was busy wondering where Kahn had gone. ‘Did he make some kind of deal with the Devil Army?’ The Devil Army didn’t let go of their targets easily. But after that day, they hadn’t appeared to him or Victoria. It meant that Kahn had made some arrangements with them, but what could it be?
He couldn’t figure it out, but he was sure that the Devil Army was already beginning to make their move. There had to be something underpinning their control of Aether to their attempt to kidnap Sesha. ‘Could it have something to do with Doyle?’
Unfortunately, since Kahn hadn’t had the chance to tell Yeon-woo, he drew a blank there too. There was nothing he could do until some news came out about Kahn or the Devil Army. ‘We’re back to square one again.’
Victoria was in no state to help them. He wanted to ask for help from Anastasia, but she considered Yeon-woo an enemy. He had to find someone at their level, but he couldn’t think of anyone. There were few talented magicians who stood neutral and apart from everyone else. Yeon-woo didn’t even know where to start looking. ‘The rest of the five top artisans already have affiliations.’
Yeon-woo was blank for a moment. ‘Should I look for a mercenary?’ Even skilled magicians sometimes worked as mercenaries to earn money for their experiments. If he forced them to do the pledge of mana, it might work, but it would not only be astronomically expensive, there was still a possibility that information might leak. If that happened, then: ‘Doing the Kelat Auction will become difficult too.’
Yeon-woo didn’t simply want to complete the Philosopher’s Stone. He also wanted to shake up the Tower with a fake one and blame everything on the Walpurgisnacht. Suddenly, a refreshing breeze came his way filled with a familiar, monstrous energy. A yellowed book quietly descended from the sky and landed in Yeon-woo’s hands. Anastasia’s Open Speaking rang in his head. 『My disciple asked me to give this to you since she can’t help you right now. I don’t know why, but since you have it, don’t ever show yourself again.』 Then, the monstrous energy scattered.
Rebecca quietly approached Yeon-woo, her eyes growing wide as she read the title of the book. 「Master, is this...?」
“Yeah. I think Victoria guessed why we came here.” Yeon-woo could feel a migraine coming on just reading the title: Complete New Theories of Rune Magic: Regarding the Strength of Divine Spirits and the Writing of the Gods.
「These are Victoria’s research papers. She was planning on presenting them to the scholars at the Magic Tower.」
Yeon-woo narrowed his eyes. Why had Victoria given them the book so easily? ‘Does her guilt run that deep?’ Yeon-woo blamed himself for not looking for Victoria sooner. She was a lot more regretful than he’d expected. He glanced back and hoped that Victoria could let go of the past one day and stand on her feet again.
Brahm brightened at Victoria’s research papers. “Since I’m weak in sorcery, this will definitely be a huge help. I only skimmed it, but the knowledge in this book is profound. She is attempting to set up a completely new field of magic. I’ve heard of Victoria, but she’s more amazing than I ever imagined.” Brahm was amazed at the results of the work Victoria had put in at the Five Mountains of Penances.
Yeon-woo was a bit surprised. There were many different fields and areas of magic which had been developed over hundreds of years, and at this point, the Magic Tower had grown quite conservative. Setting up a new field of magic in that strict world meant setting up a new school of thought and challenging the current order of magic.
It wasn’t easy, but Victoria had been so successful in her attempt that even Brahm thought it feasible. That was how outstanding Victoria’s accomplishments were. Thanks to her research, Brahm found a new way to work on the Philosopher’s Stone from a different angle.
Alchemy, white magic, black magic, elements—the research started to lurch forward with the combination of all these fields. Soon, they used up all the materials in Intrenian, but they didn’t stop. Henova donated his savings and even the Head Elder helped them, putting Yeon-woo in his debt.
After three months, they finally completed the formula. “It’s finally done.”
“What a shame that even if we’re successful, we won’t be able to try it again.” The Head Elder and Henova nodded in understanding at Brahm’s words. They had spent so many sleepless nights working together. Even with the suggestions from the Emerald Tablet and Yeon-woo’s guidance, the results were still thanks to the combination of their various knowledge and experiences.
However, the requirements of making the stone were so extreme that it couldn’t be replicated.
“The souls of humans. What a foolish thing.” Thousands, maybe even tens of thousands, of human souls. You would have to commit a large-scale massacre to gather so many, then there was also the process of refining these poor sacrifices and other methods.
It was too horrifying, and it was a relief that Yeon-woo had brought a partially finished stone. Otherwise, they never would have made the attempt. Although the stone needed plenty of other materials, it was impossible to make without any souls.
Brahm, the Head Elder, and Henova agreed to stay quiet about this. If the formula were ever leaked out, it would spell bloodshed on a staggering scale in the Tower. If clans like Red Dragon got their hands on the formula, they wouldn’t even bat an eye at taking the lives of thousands of players.
And because they gained so much knowledge about other aspects from simply working on the Philosopher’s Stone, they didn’t feel the need to possess or replicate it.
“Let’s begin.” At Brahm’s command, Yeon-woo nodded. Henova and the Head Elder looked at Yeon-woo with nervous expressions. At the moment, there was no way to pull out the stone from next to Yeon-woo’s heart. He had to absorb the materials himself in order to complete the stone according to the formula.
Yeon-woo opened Intrenian and moved his hands towards the materials that Bahal had collected. “Devour.”
Clack, clack! Bathory’s Vampiric Sword bared its teeth and began to swallow the materials.
Yeon-woo focused everything on the Philosopher’s Stone, which trembled as though it were asking to be completed.Previous Chapter Next Chapter