Players dashed through the trees of the Imugi Forest in the northwest of the Dragon Temple on the fiftieth floor.
“They won’t have gotten far. If we lose them, we’re fucked. Catch them, no matter what.”
The forest was perfect for training rankers and semi-rankers, but it was extremely noisy at the moment.
“Damn it…I don’t see the end. Where are all these bastards coming from?” Chatura, the vice-chatelaine of Demon Beauty Castle, gritted her teeth. She thought they’d evaded all of their pursuers but they were still hot on their tail.
She couldn’t believe what Demon Beauty Castle had gone through in the last few days.
Pant! Pant! She could feel a hot breath full of exhaustion on her neck. ‘If only Demon Beauty was awake…!’ Chatura gritted her teeth even harder as she looked at the pale Edora on her back.
After Edora entered the Dragon Temple for her trial, a sudden attack had messed everything up. From their clothing, it was obvious that the attackers were affiliated with different mercenary and magician groups.
They were players that had recently gathered under the banner of the Lion Alliance. It was a massive group centered around the Iron Lion Clan, with members from the mercenary and magic alliances. Small forces like Triton, Necropolis, emerging clans, and rankers jumping on the bandwagon also joined.
They had a long and complicated name, but for short, they used the name Lion Alliance after the Iron Lion Ivan. The first thing they did was to hunt Demon Beauty Castle. The reason they gave was that Demon Beauty Castle had wreaked havoc in the middle floors, and this alliance had been forged to correct them.
However, only a fool would believe this excuse. From the beginning, the forces in the Lion Alliance were mostly those who had lost to the Hoarder. They had a strong desire to take revenge, and so they attacked Demon Beauty Edora, who was known to be the Hoarder’s comrade.
Unfortunately for Edora, they had chosen the moment when she’d been focusing on her trial and her guard was down. Edora not only failed her trial, she was also heavily injured, to the point of being at death’s door. For some unknown reason, she had also fallen into a coma, and no one could wake her up.
The rest of Demon Beauty Castle had been just as powerless against the Lion Alliance’s onslaught since they hadn’t set up a proper defense. The sacrifices of Edora’s followers managed to buy time, but Chatura and the others still couldn’t shake the persistent Lion Alliance. In the end, there was no other place to run to except the Imugi Forest, but from what she could sense, their pursuers had already surrounded the forest.
‘What should I do?’ As the person who was now responsible for Demon Beauty Castle in Edora’s stead, Chatura had to rack her brain for a plan to get through the obstacles. If only someone could help them—but there was no hope of that happening. The players on the fiftieth floor were mostly semi-rankers trying to become rankers, and they were only concerned about their trials and wouldn’t want to get drawn into unnecessary danger.
On top of that, the Lion Alliance’s large number meant that they were exceptionally stronger than the four up-and-coming clans combined. They could even match any of the Eight Clans in terms of strength. No one would want to antagonize them, and everyone knew that nothing good came from getting involved in conflicts with the Hoarder.
Chatura didn’t understand why the Lion Alliance had made such a dangerous decision. ‘What are they thinking?’
Demon Beauty Castle aside, Edora had the backing of the most powerful player, the Martial King. It was true the Martial King was mainly indifferent to his tribe members’ businesses if it didn’t directly involve his tribe’s honor. Still, the members of the alliance must’ve experienced the Martial King’s monstrous strength over the past decades, surely they would be concerned about any trouble he would cause. However, the Lion Alliance still attacked Demon Beauty Castle as though they were sworn enemies.
Boom. Colossal balls of fire poured down from above. Chatura and the rest of the Demon Beauty Castle leaders were exhausted after blocking multiple bombardments already. She stepped up automatically, but a shadow suddenly dashed forward.
“I’ll take care of this place, so the rest of you can escort Demon Beauty off the floor!” Nyence broke off from the group and flourished his sword.
“There’s no time. Quick!” Nyence immediately ran towards the approaching enemies at a speed befitting of his nickname, Fierce Zephyr. There was no time to listen to their responses. Lightning rained down with every stroke of his sword and prevented the pursuers from moving forward.
They had made so many sacrifices that they already lost count of how many were gone. However, Chatura and the rest had no choice but to swallow their tears and run, even though they knew that Nyence’s sacrifice wouldn’t be of much help.
The net around them was growing tighter, and all their escape routes were blocked. The portal scrolls to move to other floors weren’t working either. Would they be defeated and forced to surrender Edora like this? Dark clouds gathered over them.
Pant! Pant! As they grew more desperate, Chatura could still feel Edora’s rough breath on her neck
* * *
“So you’re the child I saw multiple times through that other child’s eyes. The one with Shaohao’s eyes.”
As Demon Beauty Castle was running away from the Lion Alliance, Edora was locked in her memories, remembering the words of the being she’d met in the Dragon Temple. “I didn’t know because the moments were so brief, but now I see what you’ve been blessed with.”
As expected of a stage that gave different trials to each player, the trial that Edora had was vastly different from what she heard about the father and the Head Elder. A massive shadow that seemed to have no end appeared in front of her, as though it had been waiting for her.
After opening her Insight, she realized that it was a dragon greater and more immense than the Summer Queen, whom she had seen once.
The dragon looked into Edora’s eyes with its gigantic golden ones as it said those mysterious words. Edora wanted to ask who “that child” was, what she was blessed with, and who the being in front of her was, but for some reason, she couldn’t speak.
The things she saw in the dragon were too mighty. Aside from the great spirit that she had only ever seen in the Martial King, Insight revealed all the laws of the world, rendering her speechless, as though she’d seen the vastness of the galaxy for the first time. It seemed to hold the secret of the Yang Sword that she had been investigating.
Edora wanted to approach the dragon more closely even though it was suspicious that a living dragon was still around when the species should have gone completely extinct after the Summer Queen’s death. However, even though it was impossible to identify and potentially a strange illusion created by the trial, she felt an unusual pull towards the dragon. It felt like an invisible string connected them.
She took a step forward, but the Lion Alliance attacked right at that moment, crushing down her trial. The dragon faded away, and with the connection forcefully cut off, her soul had taken a hard hit.
“My name is Kalatus.” Edora ended up being tied to the remnants of the dragon for a while. “I was an immoral king who led my species to destruction, and I opened your fates to fix…” The dragon’s words were cut off at that moment.
‘What was he trying to say?’ However, the fading voice managed to say something before it disappeared. “Cha Yeon-woo. Bring Cha Yeon-woo to me. There’s not much time.”
Edora’s eyes shot open like she had been shocked. The name the dragon mentioned, Cha Yeon-woo, was familiar. How did the dragon know that name? Edora wanted to ask more questions, but she was shaken to her senses by the smell of blood that stung her nose.
A mysterious group had attacked her while she was speaking with the dragon. What happened after that? She remembered being flung out of the trial and the followers of Demon Beauty Castle rescuing her. After that…she had no memory of anything.
“Have you regained your senses, Demon Beauty?”’
Rubbing her throbbing head, she got up, feeling many pairs of eyes on her. Some were full of tears and relief, others farther away were full of annoyance and violence. She immediately realized what the situation was as soon as her vision cleared. She was surrounded by Demon Beauty Castle, who was trying to protect her, and beyond them was the Lion Alliance.
“It would’ve been better if you’d never woken up. You’re just causing more trouble.”
Edora pressed her temples, feeling a bad headache coming on as her head rang with the voice of the culprit who had messed up her trial. “You.” She gripped Divine Evil and spoke in an irritated tone. “I’ll kill you first.”
Her haggard eyes flashed through her waterfall-like hair. “Since it looks like there’s more people looking for me aside from you.” Edora looked out of the corners of her eyes at her surroundings, and threw herself towards her waiting enemies. Boom! Swish!
“Catch her! Do whatever you must.”
At the man’s orders, the Lion Alliance began to move.
* * *
“Oho. Did she see us?”
While Edora clashed with the Lion Alliance, other players—mostly High Elves and fairies—watched the situation from far away. It was the Elohim.
After the destruction of Paneth’s party, they hadn’t known what to do until they received a message from an oracle: “Bring down the darkness that wants to swallow up the light and return all to its shadows.”
There had been some confusion because it was unclear who the oracle was, but they were quickly able to figure the meaning. They were the light, and the darkness was the being getting in their way, which meant that it had to be none other than the Hoarder.
However, to strike the Hoarder, they needed to get through the One-horned tribe, the Blood Land, and many others first. They decided the best way was to lure the Hoarder with a good bait, just as the Lion Alliance was planning.
They’d been lurking in the shadows, waiting for the waters to churn so much that their target would fall into their net, but it seemed like they’d been caught out.
“Oh well.” Uros, the leader of the Seven Member Squad, the special forces of the Elohim, and the head of the High Mountain family, swept back his hair and began to move.
* * *
“The Elohim is on the move.”
“We should jump in too.”
The Elohim weren’t the only ones watching. The Plague Ghost Kindred smiled cruelly under his hood. The followers of the Devil Army followed behind the Elohim, narrowing their net around Edora.
“Cain. I’ll pluck those impertinent eyes of yours out this time.” Kindred said ominously, his voice rising like a ghost’s scream.
* * *
“Edora’s on the fiftieth floor?” It was at that moment that Yeon-woo heard the news about Edora.
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