Chapter 34 - Akasha’s Snake (2)

Yeon-woo searched for Galliard as he killed the Orcs he encountered on his journey to the northeast. The Orcs called rugged, rocky mountains “Baotri”, and it wasn’t easy to find Galliard considering that the region was full of mountains.

Moreover, the Orcs were not fools either. After noticing that their scouts weren’t coming back, they started sending groups composed of over a dozen Orcs, and some Orcs even began searching for Yeon-woo on their own initiative. Fortunately, he managed to find Galliard’s cottage before he ran into any trouble.

"Is this it?" Yeon-woo muttered to himself as he stood before one of the mountains. It was the steepest one in the region, and it towered over all the other mountains, making them look tiny in comparison.

Yeon-woo narrowed his eyes and strengthened his eyesight. As if he had zoomed in with lenses, he saw something barely peeking out of the mountain: a small cottage set on top of thick wooden pillars that had been set up on a sloping cliff. It looked like it would collapse any moment, but Yeon-woo shouted with joy because it was the same cottage he had seen in the diary.

Later, I figured out that Galliard changes the location of his cottage with each round of the Tutorial. It's so annoying to have to search every corner of the eastern desert every time I visit.

His brother did not know why Galliard kept moving around, and he could only guess that it had something to do with chasing Akasha's Snake.

'Let’s get there first.' Yeon-woo started to climb up the rocky mountain with light steps. The slope was so steep and rugged that it would be almost impossible to scale it without climbing equipment, but Yeon-woo’s high statistics and skills made it easy. All he had to do was locate the safe places to step on with his strengthened vision and leap up with his strong leg muscles. Yeon-woo managed to climb up so fast that it seemed like only moments had passed before he landed in a small yard in front of the cottage.

“Excuse me.” He knocked on the door, but he couldn’t hear anything from inside. He expanded the scope of his senses and scanned the cottage’s interior, but he couldn't sense anything. "Is anyone home?"

He couldn't just open the door and enter without the owner's permission. It was likely that Galliard had gone out, since he was someone who didn’t like staying at home and preferred to wander around. Yeon-woo sat on a bench in the yard and began his wait.

*   *   *

"What are you doing here?" The sunset was spreading across the sky by the time Gilliard returned home. Yeon-woo was in the middle of his meditation when Gilliard showed up, but he immediately opened his eyes and greeted Gilliard. "I’m Cain."

"I don’t care about your name. I’m asking you what you’re doing in front of my house.” Galliard looked Yeon-woo up and down with a face full of suspicion.

However, Yeon-woo couldn’t help being fascinated by Galliard. 'Demi-humans actually exist.' Galliard was tall, around 190 centimeters, and he had a sturdy but sleek frame. He had brown skin, well-defined, handsome features—and long, pointed ears. He wasn’t human but an Elf, one of the most prominent types of demi-humans. In addition to that, he was a Dark Elf, a species considered to be natural warriors.

"My teammates referred me here. I'd like to buy something. Are you Galliard?"

With a hostile expression, Galliard threw a freshly killed beast to the ground, and lowered his bow from his shoulder. He was getting ready for a fight.

Dark Elves are often treated as freaks even by the other Elves. While most of the Elves are peaceful nature lovers, the Dark Elves are cruel, and often cold-blooded, hunters. In some cases, they will even abandon their teammates without any hesitation if it is for a greater good.

Maybe that’s the reason Galliard was very suspicious and always on guard against others when I first met him.

"I'd like to get Undine’s Goblet."

Galliard frowned slightly. "Who told you about that?"

"Brahm."

"That asshole. I told him to stop babbling about it." Brahm was an old friend of Galliard and had been his teammate when they first entered. ‘He was another person that Jeong-woo considered a master.’ Yeon-woo had never met Brahm, but he didn’t care. He was going to leave Galliard as soon as he got the item he needed. ‘There’s no need to befriend him just because he was close to Jeong-woo.’

Although Galliard had nothing to do with the betrayal his brother had suffered—in fact, he had never entered the Tower and didn’t interfere in anything—it wouldn’t do Yeon-woo any good to reveal his identity. Best-case scenario, things would only grow awkward, and it was enough for Yeon-woo to see the kind of people his brother had once had connections with.

"OK." Galliard sighed deeply. Then he slung his bow back onto his shoulder and picked up the beast he had dropped. "Come in."

Yeon-woo followed Galliard into the cottage. Inside, it looked just like an ordinary hunting lodge. There were stuffed heads mounted on the wall of various beasts, and a collection of weapons had been arranged on the ground. There were scraps of leather scattered all over a table.

"You can sit anywhere you want. Just give me some time to finish this." Galliard pointed to a chair with his chin as he pushed the pieces of leather to the side and placed the beast on the table.

The beast he had killed had a slight resemblance to a deer, but it was twice as big and its legs were full of muscles. Two goat-like horns tangled together on its head. Galliard butchered the beast quickly, draining the blood, carving the flesh, and removing the guts. Yeon-woo watch with admiration.

"You into this kind of stuff?" Galliard glanced at Yeon-woo.

Yeon-woo nodded.

"Looks like we’re in the same boat." Galliard smiled as he noticed Yeon-woo’s backpack and the materials peeking out of it. Yeon-woo noticed that he was lowering his guard significantly. After he was done butchering the beast, Galliard slammed his bloodstained knife on the table and looked at Yeon-woo. "All right. Let's talk business. You want Undine's Goblet?"

"Yes."

Undine's Goblet was an artifact that could only be used once, and it had the power to lure Akasha's Snake to the surface. 'To be more specific, it's like its favorite food.' Since Akasha's Snake only appeared on the surface to satiate its stomach, his bait had to be either a large quantity of food or ‘It has to be nutritious.’  

Akasha was the smallest unit of matter in the spiritual world. Others called it Ether or Spirit Element. Akasha’s Snake fed on this spiritual energy. It wandered around absorbing energy from the ground and attacking monster settlements to rob them of their vitality. As a result, any place that Akasha’s Snake passed would turn into a wasteland where not a single blade of grass could grow, and it was the reason why the eastern part of Section E was full of barren deserts and rocky mountains.

It was around the time that the last remaining bits of Akasha would disappear from the eastern region, leaving Akasha’s Snake hungry and thirsty. With these circumstances, Undine's Goblet would be a very useful bait since it contained a great amount of Akasha, making it Akasha's Snake’s favorite food. However, there was one problem.

‘Galliard is the only one who knows how to make Undine’s Goblet.’ This was why players visited Galliard all the time, forcing him to hide out of annoyance.

"You know what the condition is, right?” Galliard was talking about a condition, not a price.

Yeon-woo nodded. "I have a rough idea.”

"OK. Then let's start right away."

The messages began appearing.

[The Dark Elf, Galliard, wants to test you. Your reward will be given only after you pass the test.]

[Will you accept the test?]

Galliard's sharp gaze seemed to pierce through Yeon-woo’s mask.

'So this is Galliard’s test.' Galliard would only give an Undine’s Goblet to those who passed the test he’d devised. He never accepted anything else in exchange for the item. No one knew why, and it often seemed like he was expecting something from the people who passed his test. However, no one seemed to have fulfilled his expectations since he repeated the same test over and over for decades. It was an unusual thing for a player to do, but by this time, the system in the Tower had already accepted his test as a hidden quest.

Yeon-woo nodded, and the message disappeared. A new window appeared.

[Hidden Quest / Galliard's Test]
[Content: The Dark Elf Galliard has been testing players for a long time to find someone qualified.]
[His feet are known to be as quick as the wind itself. Your task is to catch Galliard as he runs. To pass the test, you must tag him at least 5 out of 10 times.]
[Rewards: Rewards will be given according to the number of successes.
3 or more: Undine's Goblet
5 or more: Undine's Goblet + ??]

Yeon-woo’s eyes glittered. ‘More than five, is it?’ It was a game of tag. Players could catch Galliard through any means, from setting up traps and using artifacts to collaborating with teammates. The players had to tag Galliard within a certain amount of time, but for decades only five people had managed to tag Galliard more than five times.

‘But if I pull it off, I can get a skill from him.’ Yeon-woo knew that the question marks in the quest window were referring to a skill that Galliard had: Shunpo.

It was a special skill that was passed down by the Dark Elves. ‘Shunpo speeds up one’s movements and removes the sounds that they make. It’ll be a great help in combat.’ Yeon-woo’s primary weapons were his stealth and speed based on his strengthened senses. No other skill fit his combat style as well as Shunpo, which was why Yeon-woo had always planned to acquire it. But there was one more reason why Yeon-woo needed Shunpo urgently.

Without a number, Shunpo might be seen as a mediocre skill, but I realized its true value only after observing my teammate. The advantage of Shunpo lies not in its speed but something else: it’s the key element of another skill, Shukuchi. It’s ranked number one, and it’s the key to unlocking one of the best skills of Allforone.

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