Chapter 24 - Deal (4)

"It hasn't been long since the battle." Yeon-woo bent down and touched the bloodstained soil. He checked the traces left on trees and rocks, as well. It was clear that he knew what he was doing. "Five hours? No, it was about six hours ago."

"Six hours…" Kahn muttered in a small voice. 

Doyle asked Yeon-woo with a worried look. "Did they succeed?" 

Hidden pieces were only valuable when kept hidden. They helped raise players' morale and encouraged them to stay focused without falling behind. This meant that once hidden pieces in the Tutorial were cleared, they wouldn’t show up again in the same round.

If other players had already cleared Hargan's Lair, it would be a tremendous loss for Kahn and Doyle, who needed Hargan's Crown. Even though they hadn’t told Yeon-woo, they needed to obtain something else using the crown. They were plotting something big, and it was key to their plans. The discovery that other players had arrived dampened their mood. 

Yeon-woo stood up and continued examining the traces. Finally, he gave them a reassuring answer. "No, I can see tracks leading inside but none coming out. The people who came here weren’t in search of anything."

"What? What do you mean?" 

"Look here." Yeon-woo pointed at a deep groove in the ground. "This was left by something heavy being dragged, so it must be from the players’ bodies. I think the Lizardmen lured them here." 

"And then?" 

"Nobody knows." 

"Hmm." Kahn and Doyle couldn’t help frowning. Although Yeon-woo didn’t elaborate, they could imagine what had happened to the players. Monsters weren’t always prey. Sometimes, monsters became the hunters and preyed on players. This place was their home, and they knew the local terrain better than players did. It was natural to expect that they would set up traps. Yeon-woo presumed this had something to do with that. 

"Goddamn sons of bitches!" Fortunately for Yeon-woo, Kahn only spat out some curses and didn’t seem to want to intervene. 

'I thought he was naive, but he can keep his cool when necessary.’ Yeon-woo nodded quietly. 

If Kahn had lost his head from emotions, Yeon-woo would have returned the Tokens and left. But Kahn was behaving calmly to set an example as Doyle’s senior. Yeon-woo noticed that Doyle, who usually controlled his feelings well, had a grim expression on his face. 

Doyle noticed Yeon-woo's gaze and put on his usual smile. He raised his brows as if asking if there was something wrong. Yeon-woo’s eyebrows knitted in a frown, but he shook his head and remained silent. 

"It is really irritating to just let it go, but we can’t afford to overexert ourselves. So, Cain." 

Yeon-woo turned his head at his codename. "Yes?" 

"We haven't told you anything about this place yet, have we?" Yeon-woo nodded. He had been pretending not to know anything, and he was curious to see how much they knew about Hargan’s Lair and what kind of plan they had in mind. 

Kahn continued with a serious expression, "This place is called Hargan's Lair." 

"Lair?" 

"Yes. You remember the Lizardmen we’ve been dealing with on our way here? Hargan is a…leader? Chief among all chiefs? A king? Well, he is something like that. And this is where he lives.” 

"Sounds like he’s strong."

“Yeah, definitely. Doyle and I probably can’t kill him.” A dungeon with a boss monster that the third and eleventh rankers could not kill. 

Yeon-woo asked, "What about with me?"

"That’s…a different story, but it’s still gonna be tough. There's also a female one inside the lair. That one's the real deal." 

As expected, Kahn and Doyle seemed to have accurate information about Hargan's Lair. "There’s one thing for sure: no matter how hard we try, the three of us won’t be able to kill both of the bosses. We’ll die in vain." 

"Then what’s the plan?" 

"Theft." 

"Theft?" 

"Yes." Kahn nodded with a serious expression. "The male one is stationed outside the lair and the female one is inside. While I deal with the male one, you will have to distract the female one. Then Doyle will take the crown from her head." 

"And then?" 

"We’ll make a run for it!" Kahn snickered as if Yeon-woo had asked something obvious. "As I said, the female one is ridiculously strong. You cannot kill her on your own, so don’t ever fight her head-on. Just keep her busy.” 

"Understood." Yeon-woo gave him a nod. 

Kahn stared at Yeon-woo in surprise. "Why are you taking this so calmly?" 

"That was our deal, wasn’t it?" 

Kahn’s face turned red as he scratched his cheek. "Well, you know, I'm telling you to take the most difficult role. I thought you'd say you preferred to take on the male one." 

"I know you’re afraid that I might run away if things go wrong. Don't worry, I don't make promises I can’t keep. But if we are planning on running away, I must ask you something else in return for our deal." 

Kahn smiled broadly. “Of course! Man, I’m such a good judge of character. I knew you'd figure out your job and help us!” 

Yeon-woo still found him annoying and let out a snort with his arms crossed. He had seen through missions in the battlefields of Africa, and this was not much different except that he used to be a soldier who followed his superiors’ orders, and now he was more like a mercenary who followed money. 

"Let's get started." Kahn drew his sword from his waist. Clang! The sunlight reflected on the blade produced an ominous red shine.

*    *    * 

Yeon-woo’s party moved forward in an arrowhead formation with Kahn at the lead. Soon after, messages began to pop up.

[You have entered a field.] 

[You have found the hidden piece, Hargan’s Lair.] 

[You have acquired 500 karma.] 

Rustle! A bush stirred, and a Lizardman patrolling the lair suddenly shouted, "Hiss! Humans! There are humans here!" 

Yeon-woo’s party started running through the field. Since Hargan was the king of the Lizardmen, of course he had plenty of royal guards protecting him. The Lizardmen gathered in this place were among the greatest warriors of their species and could not be compared to the ones they had met on the way. 

Clang! Clang! As they ran through a horde of Lizardmen, the Lizardman King Hargan made his appearance and let out a deafening roar. "Graah! Humans! You dare enter my lair? You must die!" The average Lizardman was about two meters tall, but Hargan was twice as big. His scales glimmered blue, and his scimitar was drenched in blood. His monstrous roar produced an overwhelming aura.

[A hidden boss monster, Hargan the Lizardman King has emerged.] 

[Hidden Quest / The King of Lizardmen]
[Content: In Section E, there are 5 kings that rule over the forest. Hargan is the king of the Lizardman, who owns the northern swamp.]
[Defeat all his guards and slay Hargan the Lizardman King.]
[Rewards: Hargan's Crown, Blue Scale Scimitar, ownership of the lair] 

Roar! 'What a monster it is.' Yeon-woo frowned at Hargan, who affected his senses simply by radiating out his aura. The quest window also showed up, but he didn’t pay any attention to it. 'He is gigantic.' He had never experienced such enormous pressure. He hadn’t felt anything like this even when he first entered the Tutorial. It was close to the fear he had felt during his first time in the battlefields in Africa. The boiling tension made his right hand, which was holding a dagger, become drenched in sweat. There was a fair amount of distance between Yeon-woo and Hargan, but it still felt too close. 

Because we stumbled on this lair by pure chance, we were so nervous when we first faced Hargan that some of our teammates even shrank back in horror. The pressure that Hargan gave us was that intense. In front of him, we felt like small and insignificant beings. My blood ran cold, and I had to grit my teeth to repel the fear. But I still couldn’t stop my legs from trembling. 

Yeon-woo now understood what his brother had experienced. Even if he had broken through all the way to Section E, he had never seen such a strong monster that produced this strange, powerful murderous intent that aroused his instincts. However, Yeon-woo steadied his gaze and managed to stay composed. 'I've had enough of this.' Suddenly, the spirit around Yeon-woo started to push away Hargan’s pressure. Whoosh! 

Hargan stopped in the middle of a roar, his face stiffening as he focused on Yeon-woo. His instincts were telling him that out of all the players he had met, the one in the white mask was a true warrior who had honed his murderous aura in many battlefields. "I will kill you, human!" Hargan tightened his grip on his scimitar and jumped at Yeon-woo. 

As a creature over two meters in size rushed towards him like a maddened bull, Yeon-woo felt a murderous intent blowing across the lair like a windstorm. Because he was running so fast, he kicked some of the Lizardmen in his path out of the way. However, Yeon-woo didn’t back down. 

At that moment, Kahn jumped forward. Swish! Clang! His sword struck Hargan’s scimitar, creating sparks along with a fierce mana storm. 

Hargan's face was completely distorted. "Human, get out of my way! You are no match for me!" 

"I'm sorry, but I’m not who I used to be." Kahn grinned coldly and pulled his sword back. He had already tangled with Hargan before, so he was already familiar with his combat style. 

Hargan's enormous frame tilted slightly, and he backed away. His face twisted, and he swung his scimitar with all his strength to kill Kahn. However, Kahn's current attribute points were higher than when he had first fought Hargan. He wasn’t going to lose as easily as he did the last time. They collided once more. Clang! 

Kahn was pushed back by the impact as a column of steam rose from his tensed muscles. His eyes were bloodshot, and a musky smell was leaking from his mouth. But for some reason, Kahn couldn’t help bursting into laughter. Hargan was still too strong, but it didn’t feel as hopeless as it had before. A desire to keep on fighting with Hargan rose inside him, but Kahn tried to suppress it. It was not the time to indulge himself. He only had to give Yeon-woo and Doyle a chance to sneak into the lair. 

Hargan dashed towards him, but this time Kahn merely stepped aside and evaded him. Hargan lost his mind, turning around to grab him. "Stop running away and face me!"

Even though Hargan possessed high intelligence, a monster was just a monster after all. Kahn kept evading his attacks, luring him towards the pack of Lizardmen. Each time Hargan launched an attack, he would end up slicing up a few Lizardmen. The royal guards begged their king to calm down, but Kahn’s evasive tactics continued to madden Hargan, and the area outside the lair grew more chaotic. As a result, Yeon-woo and Doyle managed to slip inside the lair without any issues. 

*    *    * 

There were other guards throughout the passage of the lair, but Yeon-woo’s dagger took care of them as soon as they appeared, piercing through their foreheads one by one. Neither of them spoke a word. Doyle might have been worried about Kahn, but he kept focused on his mission, fully aware that Kahn’s survival depended on how quickly he could steal the crown. 

Soon, they managed to reach the deepest area of the lair, the queen’s room. What met their eyes was completely shocking. 

"I-i-it’s a person!" 

"Save me! P-please!" 

"H-help!" 

Bits of flesh and pools of blood were scattered all over the ground. There were people whose limbs had been pulled from their bodies, and their faces were twisted with the excruciating pain. It was a horrifying sight. 

Other people had been bound in chains and locked up in cages like livestock. They had found a human farm.

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