Chapter 269 - The Hoarder (9)

However, Shanon had no pity for them. His strengthened senses picked up a huge amount of information, and he could see that the Ninety-Second Squad was attempting to harm Yeon-woo. However, Yeon-woo didn’t retaliate. It didn’t matter what they did since they were all in the palm of his hand anyway. Once the Cannibal Monster King appeared, they wouldn’t be able to do anything, including get out of the island safely.

Shanon shrugged the thoughts away. He was more interested in the skills of the greatly anticipated Cannibal Monster King anyway. 

* * *

“I don’t see Charon anywhere.”

“Shit. He’s always around, so where is he now?” Orant scratched the back of his head in annoyance. He felt like he was going to lose it because Charon hadn’t shown himself on the island for several hours now. They had already gathered all the materials they needed, so all that was left was to build the boat.  

According to his subordinates, the Hoarder was gathering supplies for his own boat at a rapid pace, and they had to find Charon before the Hoarder showed up so they could slow him down. 

Charon was known as a money-grubbing ferryman, and they’d already calculated how much they could give him to make him listen to their orders. They’d already extorted karma from the other players in preparation. However, it was only possible to bribe someone if they were actually there, and at the moment, they had no idea what to do.

Charon usually followed people around like a lost puppy, but when they actually wanted to see him, he was nowhere to be found. Orant was impatient to finish things cleanly. With Hector dead, Ibrahimovic would become the captain, and Orant wanted to become the co-captain. 

“I’ve heard that Charon enjoys fishing in the lake across from the island. Do you think he might be there?”

“Fishing?” Orant cocked his head. 

“Yes. My subordinate just heard about it from some player, who said he saw Charon heading there all the time.”

“Dammit! You should tell me things like this in advance! We almost wasted time because of you!” Orant kicked his subordinate in the shins, furious. His subordinate pitched forward but didn’t say anything. It was better to stay quiet until Orant’s anger was quelled. Orant calmed himself. “So? Where’s this lake?”

“I heard you have to go inside the forest.”

“It’s not the Cannibal Monster Humans’ territory, is it?”

“I think…it is.”

“Shit. You want me to go in there again?” Orant ground his teeth. It wasn’t that hard to collect materials on the island, but the Cannibal Monster Humans were a big nuisance who were too tenacious to avoid.

The headquarters had said that the easiest way to clear the twenty-seventh floor was to gather materials without being noticed by the chief. As long as they kept up the pace, they would be able to breeze through the twenty-seventh floor instead of suffering like they did in the twenty-sixth floor. And after that: ‘They said the Regiment would take care of everything.’

The Fantasy Regiment couldn’t help them because they were randomly placed on islands, but past the River of Souls, things were different on the twenty-eighth floor. The Fantasy Regiment could interfere as much as they wanted. The Fantasy Regiment was known for keeping their clans on equal footing, and the clans on the higher floors were in charge of helping the clans on the lower floors. Obviously, the River of Souls was large enough to accommodate several boats at one time, and knowing this, Ibrahimovic believed that they could surround the Hoarder.

Thinking of returning to the forest that bristled with Cannibal Monster Humans made Orant balk, but he had no other choice. He gritted his teeth and nodded at his subordinate, who had got to his feet once more. “Shit. Oh well. Gather a team to enter the forest. And just in case, ask other clans to join in.”

The expression of his subordinate grew brighter. “Yes, sir!”

* * *

Although it was phrased as a request for cooperation, in reality, it was like a command. The players from the other clans were annoyed and filled with reluctance.

“Again…!” Heidi, the leader of Team Trinity, ground her teeth. Elves were known for their mastery over their emotions, but the anger on her face was clear to see. Dylan and Jun, who had been her companions ever since the Tutorial, didn’t look too happy either. 

“They’re basically telling us to walk into our own graves.”

“Fuck. Should we just fight them?”

The orders that they’d continually gotten made them feel miserable. There were many different groups on the island, but the Ninety-Second Squad had taken control of them in the name of the Fantasy Regiment.

Since they had over 200 members on the island, they could bully the other clans and force the other players to help them whenever they needed it, often sending them to enter the territory of the Cannibal Monster Humans in their place.

The smaller clans sustained a lot of damage, and a few teams had even been completely wiped out. Now that they’d finished gathering the materials, they thought it was over, but the new orders to enter the territory of the Cannibal Monster Humans left them frustrated all over again.

Heidi was thinking of getting the other clans together to organize a rebellion. Since they only had to find Charon, the search would take too long, but afterwards, it was clear what would happen to them: they’d be forced to row the boats and navigate for the Ninety-Second Squad. They needed to get out of this.

Since she was an Elf, it was hard for Heidi to choose violence, but the suffering she’d endured ever since she entered the Tower had changed her personality. Dylan and Jun looked tempted, too. Since they would suffer anyway, perhaps it would be best just to go on the attack first.

‘Maybe we can ask the Hoarder!” Heidi suddenly remembered the masked person she had seen from far away. The Hoarder wouldn’t remember meeting her, but she remembered him clearly. If she pleaded with him, he might give them a little help.

However, her team members shook their heads.

“It’s fine, ma’am.”

“You don’t have to overwork yourself on our behalf.”

They could feel her determination to do whatever was necessary, and she smiled bitterly when she looked at them. They were a small team with less than ten members, and each person was like a family member to her now, like Dylan and Jun.

During the war between Red Dragon and the Cheonghwado on the eleventh floor, Heidi and the others had joined as mercenaries to earn money. They’d been assigned to the mercenary legion under the Hoarder, and her current team members were the players she’d met during that time. The war ended faster than she expected, and their leader had disappeared.

They were worried the legion would separate without even accomplishing anything, and she had ended up creating a team of people with the same goals that she did. Heidi naturally became the leader since she was already the head of her little group. However, she’d rejected the role at first, saying that it wasn’t something she sought, but in the end, she accepted it and led the team well.

She was the reason why the team members had rejoined after the difficult trial on the twenty-sixth floor. Heidi felt a great responsibility to everyone, which was why she was entertaining thoughts of rebellion. She couldn’t allow her team members to suffer any longer, and she’d already lost three.

However, the team members shook their heads as they read Heidi’s mind. Any rebellion would be doomed, and they decided it was better to bear it for a bit longer.

Heidi sighed. Her team members had a point. Even if they defeated the Ninety-Second Squad somehow, how would they deal with the Fantasy Regiment? They were between a rock and a hard place.

“How about contacting the Hoarder?” Dylan raised his hand, but Jun shook his head. 

“No. That’s too difficult. You’ve seen him. He only focuses on what he can get, and he doesn’t care about others. It would already be a relief if he didn’t hand us over to the Ninety-Second Squad.”

“D-do you really think he’d do that?” Dylan thought the Hoarder would be easier on them since they’d served under him before, but now he wasn’t sure.  

Heidi stood after she was done organizing her thoughts. “Since we’ve made our decision. let’s move. We can’t be scolded for being late.”

They nodded with pale faces.

* * *

“Oh! Our beautiful Heidi! Did you show up because you missed me? It’s cold here, eh?”

Heidi frowned slightly at Orant’s sexual harassment, but she controlled her expression and answered impassively, “Since everyone’s already here, let’s move.” She used to have a temper, but she had learned that it was best to control your emotions as much as possible. She approached her team.

Orant clucked his tongue as he watched her. “Ha. Fine. Let’s see how long you’ll act so high and mighty.”

Orant’s goal was to see Heidi’s cold face change, and the thought of humiliating her in front of her comrades made him smile. He was confident that it would happen soon as the team, composed of thirty members, began to move into the forest.

The forest was humid and heavy as usual, but there was something new: a shivering chill permeated it. Although Orant was safely ensconced in the middle of the team, the deeper they went into the forest, the bigger his frown grew. “Hey, pathfinder. Is this the right way?”

“Pardon? Yes! I-it’s correct.”

“What is this…” Orant’s face twisted. “What is this? Why have things changed in the span of a day?” Orant had a trait that could sense change, so he immediately noticed the difference in the air, and there was a smell that seemed to be tinged with blood. ‘I didn’t hear about a battle taking place here?’ Orant paused. It was best not to move when something was off. 

Everyone grew nervous when they realized that something was wrong. However, Orant nodded at his subordinate, ordering a few members to walk ahead to investigate. “You! You! You! Go check to see what’s up ahead.”

The players turned pale. It was almost guaranteed that they would die, but if they didn’t go, the Ninety-Second Squad would put them to the sword anyway. They went into the forest and didn’t return.

Orant and everyone else grew nervous as they all thought the same thing: something was in there. 

“Captain Heidi, I think you’ll have to go.” Orant looked at Heidi. He still wanted to make her bend to him, but his life was more important. Heidi was skilled enough that she’d be able to discover what was going on.  

Heidi had already experienced this before, so she took Dylan, Jun, and a few more members with her. Her sharp senses also told her that the air was different. Not long after, they found three corpses—the players who had gone before them.

“Urgh!”

“Th-this is impossible.”

“Heidi.”

The corpses were in a terrible state. Dylan looked at Heidi with a hard expression. 

“Wait.” Heidi stopped him, the expression on her face complex. She padded to the nearest corpse as quietly as a cat. ‘Something’s not right.’ The Cannibal Monster Humans didn’t leave corpses like this and preferred to keep them intact. The heads of the players had been partially crushed and their bodies chewed up to the point of being unrecognizable.

‘It’s like something played with them, as though they were toys…’ And yet despite the violence, none of them had sensed anything. What had happened? Why had the Cannibal Monster Humans changed so much?

“Keek! Keek!” The hunting cries of the Cannibal Monster Humans rang out. It was one of the ways they made their prey nervous, but Heidi could sense something more from them: anxiety and excitement. They were high from something and had lost all reason.

“Everyone, get into formation!” Heidi shouted when she sensed the Cannibal Monster Humans moving.

A message popped up. 

[A great number of Cannibal Monster Humans have died on the island.]

[The chief is furious at this discovery. The lower-ranked priests have begun to mutter prayers on his orders.]

[The difficulty of the trial is increasing.]

[The ‘Cannibal Demonic Humans’ are coming!]

[More ‘Cannibal Demonic Creatures’ are arriving.]

……

[The ‘Cannibal Demonic Monsters’ are coming!]

“Wh-what?”

“No way…!”

Everyone looked shocked, even Heidi, whose face had turned pale. ‘This is the reason!’ The air had changed because the strength of the Cannibal Monster Humans had increased.

The forest shook, and crazed Cannibal Monster Humans began to appear in the trees and from the grass. The members were about to use their skills when Heidi shouted with Open Speaking, Don’t touch them! Get down.

Everyone dropped to the ground. The trees shook as though they would break, and they all held their breaths as they waited for the ruckus to stop. Heidi saw a large shadow pass through the Cannibal Monster Humans about five meters tall. Its murderous aura was so powerful that it twisted the atmosphere. The Cannibal Monster Humans surrounded the Cannibal Demonic Creature as though they were protecting it.

Heidi’s eyes met the eyes of the Cannibal Demonic Creature when it turned its head. She swallowed nervously.  

Fairy Eyes

She read information about it with her special Elf skill. It had more magic power than she’d heard even though it didn’t look particularly powerful. It could easily rip Orant and Ibrahimovic, who boasted about being the strongest on the island, into shreds with its bare heads. It could crush Heidi and her team without much effort, but it just turned and continued on its way. 

Once they were gone, Heidi and her team stayed frozen, still too shocked to move.

“What was that monster?” Only after a long time had passed, Dylan broke the silence and panted.

Heidi suddenly jumped to her feet. The team looked at her inquisitively, but her expression was grim. “The Cannibal Monster Humans are heading to the rest of the team! They’re in danger!”

They realized how serious the situation was. They had left some of their own members behind with the rest of the team, and they had to save them. Heidi couldn’t read the aura of the Cannibal Demonic Creature, which meant that it was different from Cannibal Monster Humans and Cannibal Demonic Humans. It wasn’t a being that ought to be on a lower floor like this. The rest of the team would never be able to defeat it. Only if Ibrahimovic joined would they have a chance. ‘I have to be quick!’

“Heidi!”

Heidi put the worried shouts of the team behind her and called a Wind Spirit to help her rush to the team. There, she found complete chaos. Orant rolled on the ground, his torso crushed. However, there was something else that she didn’t expect. ‘What is that?’’

She had thought that everyone would be dead and the Cannibal Demonic Creature would be roaring in triumph, but she saw the heads of the Cannibal Monster Humans piled on the ground instead. Monsters that looked like shadows roamed over them.

Crunch. Crunch. Guai cried out in the sky. 

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