Chapter 251 - Growth (1)

Time blew past like the wind, and it could be considered one of the most confusing periods since the creation of the Tower. Everyone was so befuddled that they asked, ‘Has that much time already passed?’

Everyone, from the ordinary players on the lower floors to the retired players, was rocked by the events. The Summer Queen’s death plunged Red Dragon into dangerous waters, and countless enemies threatened them. The Blood Land was the most voracious in tearing through them while the Devil Army hunted the Eighty-One Oculus. The Elohim allied themselves with the Sea of Time and attempted to invade the seventy-sixth floor. 

Other clans invaded Red Dragon’s territories throughout the tower. The situation was looking grim for Red Dragon, but they still prevailed. Even without the Summer Queen, they had a long, rich history and profound resources.

Bihee, Waltz distinguished herself the most. She had taken over Red Dragon and since she was skilled at both Mugong and magic, she always left the battlefield victoriously. She wasn’t anywhere close to the Summer Queen, but at least she didn’t fall short of the Nine Kings.  

Red Dragon’s battle on the seventy-sixth floor with three other groups ended in a draw. They managed to prove that they weren’t a toothless tiger but a beast who still had its sharp claws. Thanks to this, although Red Dragon had suffered a lot of damage, they managed to maintain their position as the strongest clan.

However, the real problems appeared just as Bihee, Waltz was breathing out a sigh of relief after defending the seventy-sixth floor. The other Nine Dragon Sons attacked her, and Waltz overwhelmingly lost, too tired from all the fighting to mount a defense. She barely managed to escape with a few of her followers. 

After this, the Nine Dragon Sons fought among themselves for the empty throne. The Eighty-One Oculus and other martial squads were split among the Nine Dragon Sons, and comrades who had been fighting side by side not too long ago ended up stabbing each other.

When the dust cleared after a day, Red Dragon had been split into three. Waltz, now called the Spring Queen, led White Dragon. Tom, the Autumn Lord, led Black Dragon now that he’d grown in strength after consuming his brothers. The weakest three, Hyall, Leeso, and Bahratan, made up Green Dragon. 

The factions of the seventy-sixth floor encouraged the other Large Clans to attempt their own changes, and the confusion that resulted was even greater than the one after the Cheonghwado fell. New clans appeared after clans swallowed each other up. Some were even large enough to threaten the Eight Large Clans. Dozens of new players became rankers every day. Rule of law was dropped in favor of rule by the sword. There was only one word to describe it: upheaval. 

* * *

Although most of the Tower was in confusion, the One-horned tribe continued to live their lives outside of the range of the whirlwind. With the sudden disappearance of the Bow God, things became quiet again. 

Yeon-woo and his friends also enjoyed a tranquil period. Yeon-woo and Brahm were busy creating an antidote for Ananta based on the information that Vieira Dune’s exuviae had provided.  Walpurgisnacht had put too many different drugs inside Ananta in order to make her a suitable vessel, so they needed a long time to come up with the right antidote.  

Brahm finished the antidote after a few months, and after administering it, he began thinking all kinds of things as his daughter’s eyelashes quivered. What should he say when she opened her eyes? Should he tell her that she would be all right? Or should he just stroke her head? Perhaps he could show her how well Sesha was doing? But what if she still hated him?

But all these thoughts vanished when Ananta opened her eyes. “Ananta.” Brahm gripped Ananta’s hand. She looked so pitiful lying there, barely breathing through a mask. He felt like crying. During times like this, he hated being stuck inside a Homunculus. He wanted to cry and share his emotions, but he couldn’t. 

However, Ananta’s eyes stayed unfocused and only looked ahead emptily. Concern flashed through Brahm’s eyes. Yeon-woo, who stood behind him, grew serious. 

* * *

Their fears became a reality.  Brahn focused on healing Ananta and after a few weeks, she was finally making progress, but she didn’t regain her senses at all. She could eat with someone’s help and even walk, but that was all. She sat blankly all day without speaking, unable to even recognize Sesha. No one knew why, and they only guessed that the trauma had affected her deeply. Even with therapy, she didn’t improve.

Brahm’s days next to Ananta were full of pain, and he wondered if this was punishment from the heavens for not taking care of his daughter in the past out of selfishness. He was filled with guilt, wishing that he was the one in pain, not his daughter. Yeon-woo ached for him. ‘If only I’d known sooner.’

Yeon-woo’s fingers twitched. If he were on Earth, he would be smoking by now. He’d never been so desperate for a cigarette ever since he entered the Tower. The Head Elder sent Yeon-woo a bottle of alcohol for the first time. Clink! The bottle and his glass bumped against each other. The alcohol tasted bitter. 

He was about to pour another shot, but a hand suddenly reached out to stop him. He lifted his head. Phante and Edora were frowning at him. 

“What are you doing by yourself? You look too pitiful. You have to drink with other people.” Phante took the bottle from Yeon-woo as he sat opposite Yeon-woo.

Edora silently filled Yeon-woo’s glass. Yeon-woo just watched the liquid enter the glass. Although his reflection only showed him his mask, he could almost see his bitter smile behind it. If even he could sense it, he was sure Phante and Edora could, as well.

However, neither of them asked Yeon-woo anything. They only sat with him quietly, raising their glasses and drinking together. Yeon-woo managed to gradually clear his chaotic thoughts. 

Even after he’d entered the Tower, he didn’t know of Sesha’s existence. He also didn’t know what Brahm and Ananta had suffered. He didn’t even want to imagine what kind of things Vieira Dune did. 

「How could you know? It’s not like you have Thousand Li Eyes like Allforone or predict the future like the Three Norns.」

「That’s right. Don’t take it to heart.」

Shanon and Hanryeong tried to cheer Yeon-woo up, but Yeon-woo couldn’t dismiss his guilt so easily. If only he had been a bit faster. If only he had hurried to save Ananta, to stop Vieira Dune. Then, Sesha wouldn’t have to see her mother in such a terrible condition. His despair and regret turned to other thoughts. ‘If only I were stronger.’

All of this happened because he was too weak. If he were just a little stronger, he wouldn’t have to spend so much time on the lower floors. He would’ve been able to get to Sesha and Ananta faster. He’d had similar thoughts before: if he were stronger, he could get his revenge and destroy the Tower.

However, this time, his desire for strength had a different reason. ‘I have to become a roof.’ He’d started off alone but now he was surrounded by people he cared for: Brahm, Ananta, Sesha. His subordinates, Shanon, Hanryeong, Rebecca, and Boo. Phante and Edora, and Galliard. The Martial King was now his teacher, and the One-horned tribe was his family. 

Although he was still determined to have revenge, he had to protect the people around him. He wanted to become a dependable structure that could shelter others, like the Martial King. Even as he fought the Summer Queen, he was strong enough to protect the tribe. The other tribe members supported him so he could focus on the fight. They believed in each other, and they had each other’s backs.

Yeon-woo wanted to be like that, too. He wanted to become a wall to protect those around him, and they would protect his back in return. Although part of him worried that he would end up in the same situation as his brother, he also remembered Jeong-woo’s words not to embarrass him. He wanted to prove that his brother was right to believe in his friends and lover, that faith and loyalty mattered.

He urgently felt that he wanted to protect everyone, and he couldn’t help confessing his thoughts out loud. 

「Why are you suddenly being so dramatic? My toes are curling up!」

「We are bound to you. Please walk the path you wish. Even though Shanon’s talking nonsense, that’s not how he really feels. We’ll always silently be by your side.」

Shanon and Hanryeong replied in predictable ways. 

“Ahem! I was wondering what you were doing in the middle of the night. So that’s what it is. Goodness.”

“Oraboni, Do you remember what I said last time? I want to share your burden.”

Phante shook his head like he didn’t know why Yeon-woo had been so concerned, and Edora carefully looked into Yeon-woo’s eyes. Yeon-woo remembered what she’d said to him after he’d collapsed in her arms after the fight with Agares on the twenty-third floor. “I wanted to see what kind of burden you’re carrying. Am I wrong for wanting to share it?”

She had also told him that if he really considered them his little siblings, he should share his burden, and Yeon-woo promised to tell them one day. It seemed like the day had finally come.

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