Chapter 274 - The Hoarder (14)

Up until a few minutes ago, the pirate clan, the Wild Skull, had been feeling gleeful.

“So a large amount of Predators appeared, hm? And then they all disappeared?”

“Yes. We can’t find any traces of the Predators on our radar anymore, so we can just go and start collecting things.”

“Hue hue hue. I thought something big was going on all those Predators. I didn’t realize it would be such a good thing for us.”

The pirates all guffawed as they turned their ship around. Predators usually showed up whenever there was lots of prey, like a fleet of boats. If these pods of Predators disappeared, that meant a large fleet might have engaged them in battle. Even if the Predators had been routed, they would have likely caused some damage to the fleet, too.

There might be all kinds of treasures floating around, which the Wild Skull was ready to harvest. This was what they normally did, and they were expecting a big score. It had been a while since they’d managed to get a large amount of booty, and they were all excited. However, disaster struck like a sudden wind. Boom! Something fell on their mast, making their ship shudder. The pirates lost their balance and fell.

“Wh-what was that?”

They couldn’t regain their footing, and stumbled around with surprised expressions.

“Huh?”

“Th-the ship is falling apart!”

The ship was breaking in half, and water was flowing onto the deck. The pirates turned pale and began emergency maneuvers, but flames suddenly appeared and swallowed up the mast and crept to the deck.

A few of them tried to put out the fire, but they all ended up sliding into the river as the ship angled up. There were screams of fear everywhere. Those hanging onto ropes and railings also felt the hand of death at their necks. There was fire above and the river below. The only choice was to burn or melt to death. Their faces grew paler with every second that passed.

At that moment, Yeon-woo bent down to look at them. “Do you want to live?”

As soon as they saw Yeon-woo’s mask, they realized that they had walked into their own graves. Everyone knew the Hoarder’s mask since he was the rookie who had finished off the Summer Queen. 

“I-I want to live!”

“I’ll do anything you ask! Please spare me!”

Yeon-woo nodded in satisfaction. 

Sheesh. Your personality is…you know you’re not in any position to judge the Martial King, right? Yeon-woo pretended he couldn’t hear Shanon and continued speaking to the pirates. “Do you know where the Quartz Palace is?”

“The Quartz Palace? Are you talking about the Blue Rose?”

The Blue Rose was the name of Lana’s pirate crew. 

“That’s right.”

“I-it’s been several years since the Blue Rose went off the grid, so we don’t…!”

Boom! Yeon-woo stomped his left foot, making the ship quake once more. Cracks appeared in the wood, and the ship seemed to be on the edge of shattering. The water flowed in even more quickly. The pirates looked frantic.

“B-b-but I kn-know someone who might kn-know them…ack!”

The ship fell apart, and just as they were about to fall into the river, a shadow stretched out and grabbed them by their collars, leaving them dangling in the air. They swung like fruits on a tree as they looked at the churning river below them.

“Are you telling the truth?”

“Y-yes!” The captain of the Wild Skull shouted wildly. The truth was that he didn’t know anything, but he would say anything to survive. ‘Shit! I’m sure the other pirates will know something! We can’t be the only ones on the hook!’  

* * *

From that point on, the hunt for pirates began in earnest. Yeon-woo listened to the advice of the captain of the Wild Skull and destroyed the ships of the other pirate crews, only saving them at the last minute.

None of them wanted to be ruined, and so they gave up all the information they had on the other pirates’ bases. Yeon-woo looted ten bases in a night, and rumors began to spread among the pirates that whenever a ghost ship appeared, it would swallow pirates up. As the pirates slowly began to disappear, the others started to hide themselves. However, that didn’t stop the hunt for pirates at all.

* * *

“Row the boat!”

“The winds are strong! Raise the sail! This time, we’re going to the Silent Flower!”

Hundreds of crew members hoisted the sail while others looked through their binoculars. Yeon-woo’s ghost ship had changed quite a bit in four days. The pirates he’d caught now helped them sail the boat as crew. Since the river was their home, they were more skilled than the players or the Cannibal Monster Humans.  

The players’ burden lightened, and sometimes they wondered if it was okay for them to take things so easily.

“Is it really all right for us not to work so hard?” Dylan asked Heidi with a flabbergasted face. 

As soon as the pirates realized that Team Trinity was Yeon-woo’s subordinates, they began to call them “sunbae” and serve them. Some pirates looked at them with tearful eyes, asking them how much they’d suffered under Yeon-woo. They began to call the new arrivals “hoobae” and order them around.

There was a hierarchy on Yeon-woo’s boat, and Team Trinity found themselves at the top. Heidi was the first mate, and everyone consulted her because they found Yeon-woo too terrifying to approach.

Dylan wondered how reasonable it was to expect the new arrivals to do all the work. Fortunately, the ship was large, with a lot of open space, but while the pirates lived on the floor, Team Trinity was trying to clear it. It was one thing to ally with pirates, but he didn’t want to be tied down.

“Oh well. We have to do what he asks.” Heidi just smiled bitterly and couldn’t offer a solution because of the conditions Yeon-woo had placed on them. She couldn’t bring this up knowing that she would be chased away if she did. “But still, the Hoarder needs to clear the twenty-eighth floor like we do. Don’t worry too much.”

“Whew! That’s true, but…”

Heidi patted Dylan’s shoulder and looked over at Yeon-woo, who was sitting at the bow of the ship, looking at the river. She couldn’t see his expression because of his mask, but he was completely still, as though time had stopped. ‘What kind of person is he?’ She still found him too difficult to read. She had no idea what he was planning to do with all the pirates he’d collected.

At first, it seemed like he was just trying to get more information from them, but instead of discarding them, he kept them on his ship. Was he sparing their lives or did he have something else in mind? Heidi didn’t usually interfere with other people’s business, but she couldn’t stop wondering about Yeon-woo. ‘It’s like he’s looking for something…’

Just then, Yeon-woo raised his hand to signal them to stop. The pirates rushed around as they maneuvered the sail and dropped the anchor. 

Protect the boat. Yeon-woo tossed a command to Heidi through Open Speaking and got up. Heidi was about to ask him when he meant, when Yeon-woo spread his Fire Wings and jumped off the boat.

“Th-that…!”

“Psycho!”

The crew members all shouted in shock, but Yeon-woo was already sinking into the river with his Fire Wings wrapped around his body. The first person who gathered her wits was Heidi. If he’d ordered her to guard the ship, that meant that he planned to return. She didn’t know what he was thinking, but it was clearly part of a plan. It was clear she had no other choice.

Heidi clapped her hands. The murmuring crew members turned to her, and she told them with a serious expression, “The Hoarder will return. Please stay in your positions until he does.”

* * *

Yeon-woo sank deep into the River of Souls. The ghosts and sea monsters floating around approached him when they discovered him, but they quickly moved away from him in fear when he used his power. 

[The 3rd Spirit]

It was the power that the god of death, Azrael, had given to him, which made it superior to their property. And with the Factors he’d received, it had more functions now. Yeon-woo saw a glowing castle in the dark water that was so large and fancy that it seemed to be straight out of a fairy tale. ‘The Quartz Palace.’ Yeon-woo smiled faintly as he looked at Lana’s headquarters. Who could have imagined that a palace like that would appear in the River of Souls, which was filled with sea monsters?

Most pirates knew that the Quartz Palace was Lana’s territory, but they didn’t know what it was exactly. 

‘Even the Eight Large Clans couldn’t find the Quartz Palace. Lana used that to her advantage well. If she’s gathering more forces, she’s probably using the Quartz Palace as her headquarters.’

Yeon-woo had chosen the territory that the Blue Rose had once trawled and used his Spirit Familiars to search for the Quartz Palace. He’d stared at the water of the river until he saw something that resembled the palace in the diary.

He used Blink over and over to approach the Quartz Place, looking forward to meeting the teacher who had cherished his brother so much. ‘She might still have the necklace that Jeong-woo gave her.’

I gave her a present after explaining that there was a Teacher Appreciation Day on Earth. She really liked it, and I’ve never forgotten how overjoyed she looked. It was a change from her regal demeanor.

However, up close, the Quartz Palace had changed from how it looked in the diary. ‘Hmm?’ It should have been glowing elegantly, but it was now damaged in several places, as though an intense battle had occurred. Even the undamaged sections had already been eroded by the river water now that its protective barrier was gone.

Yeon-woo grew worried, and he used Wind Path to head towards the center of the Quartz Palace, which was called the Quartz King Palace. Although it was in the same location as the diary had shown, it had been destroyed in some places and was filled with river water. He couldn’t find any traces of people.

It was then that Yeon-woo saw armored skeletons kneeling in the hall, their heads bowed as though they were trying to protect something. There were other skeletons in front of them that seemed to be their enemies. ‘Behind this is…’

Yeon-woo clenched his fist and burst through the door to see a large hall filled with paintings and jewels that had lost their shine. A skeleton sat on the throne in the hall, wearing Lana’s clothing. Its bony hand gripped the necklace Jeong-woo had given her.

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