Duke Tuan Tien had been the one to bring Yeon-woo the news about Edora. He’d come across it by accident on his way back to Yeon-woo with the Gluttony Emperor’s approval and the greatest attack team of the Blood Land.
‘His eyes…!’ He had brought it up to encourage Yeon-woo, thinking they could use the help of the One-horned tribe while they were at it. But the moment he saw Yeon-woo’s eyes, Duke Tuan Tien was taken by surprise.
He coughed, pretending like nothing was the matter once he realized how obvious his sudden wariness had been, but Yeon-woo’s sharp expression didn’t change. “Tell me what happened in detail.”
Duke Tuan Tien didn’t even notice that Yeon-woo was no longer speaking formally to him. “Do you remember the mercenary alliance and magic alliance you’ve clashed with before? Groups like Triton and Necropolis have gathered with them to target Demon Beauty.” Yeon-woo listened in silence. “Because of that, Demon Beauty was heavily injured on the fiftieth floor, but the problem is that the Elohim and the Devil Army have also jumped into the fray.”
“The Elohim and the Devil Army?”
“Yes. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the groups you’ve had conflicts with have all joined in.” Duke Tuan Tien shook his head.
Yeon-woo nodded after thinking over his explanation and walked past him.
It was only a flash, but Duke Tuan Tien didn’t miss the coldness in Yeon-woo’s eyes. ‘There’s gonna be quite a mess.’ He crossed his arms and a corner of his mouth rose. He had already forgotten how flustered Yeon-woo’s eyes had made him and was now in high-spirits. The angrier the Hoarder was, the better it was for him.
A lanky man quietly approached the duke. “He’s quite rude—completely different from how Father described him. Why did Father tell you to work with such a rude guy, Master?”
“You cannot judge someone by his appearance, Your Highness. He will be a very nice ally for us. Please calm your anger, Your Highness.”
The man was the crown prince of the Blood Land, Prince Domo. He frowned in displeasure. He couldn’t refute his admirable master, Duke Tuan Tien, but he looked irked, nonetheless. Anger filled his eyes as he looked at Yeon-woo’s back.
Duke Tuan Tien had to appease his disciple, who would be his future king. It wasn’t that he didn’t understand where he was coming from. As the crown prince of the Blood Land and the only son of the Gluttony Emperor, it was natural that he would be accustomed to deference. Powerful rankers always bowed their head to him, and he always got everything he wanted.
However, the Gluttony Emperor had suddenly given him an order while he’d been resting comfortably, as always: “Follow the Hoarder, and learn from him.”
To Prince Domo, the Hoarder was just a cocky vagabond who was overconfident because of his recent fame. He didn’t understand why he had to follow someone like that. What was he supposed to learn?
However, his respected father had requested this with a serious expression that he hadn’t seen in a long time, so he couldn’t refuse. He knew what his father would do if he resisted. ‘Like my other siblings, he’ll put me on the table.’ Prince Domo didn’t want to follow in his dead siblings’ footsteps, so he ended up accompanying his bodyguards and Duke Tuan Tien.
His bodyguards were all some of the most powerful players within the Blood Land, and the Gluttony Emperor had picked each one himself. However, he didn’t realize that they were also the eyes and ears of the Gluttony Emperor, and they kept a constant watch over him, silently evaluating him.
Duke Tuan Tien didn’t mention any of this and rushed to appease the prince. “You know that His Majesty isn’t one to say silly things. He must have a reason to wish that you learn from the Hoarder.”
“But we’ll become enemies with the Devil Army and the Elohim if we work with him, right? It’s true we’re going to chop them up and serve them someday, but I don’t think anything good will come from creating hostilities now, Master.” Duke Tuan Tien’s warning pricked Prince Domo’s conscience, but he didn’t take back his opinion.
Duke Tuan Tien nodded. He knew that the prince wasn’t completely wrong. “We’re also concerned about that, but we’ve decided that the kingdom has more to gain this way.”
“The Dragon Labyrinth…I hope it’s as useful as it’s been made out to be. I don’t wish for it to get in our way.” Realizing that his opinion didn’t matter, Prince Domo stuck his lower lip out and grumbled. He didn’t express any more of his displeasure, but his glaring eyes didn’t move from Yeon-woo.
Duke Tian Tien just watched him. If he wasn’t a fit successor to the throne, jealousy would blind him. However, if he was capable, he’d learn something from the Hoarder. And as he expected, it took less than a day for Prince Domo to completely change his mind.
* * *
[You have succeeded in clearing the beasts Lava Beast and Ice Witch.]
[The trial of the 44th floor is finished. Will you move to the next floor?]
“It hasn’t even been that long since we cleared the forty-third floor!”
The challenge of the forty-fourth floor was to subjugate beasts that lived in the center of areas with lava and ice.
However, to get to them, you had to hunt different monsters at different stages. It was famed for being difficult to clear because the monsters were all buffed. Yeon-woo had asked Prince Domo and his bodyguards to take care of the monsters and vanished. Then, a few hours later, he had done the impossible task of felling the two beasts at once.
Considering the fact that both beasts could easily gulp down rankers and even the Blood Land was forced to create raid teams to clear the floor, it was a jaw-dropping feat.
That was already shocking enough, but…
3. Cah Jeong-woo
‘First place? Are you kidding me?!’
Even though he had cleared through the floors at such a rapid pace, the first place in the rankings always went to “Unknown”, whom everyone knew was Yeon-woo. How was that possible?
The others took months, years in some cases, to clear a floor. It was already surprising that he could get past the two floors in a matter of hours, but Yeon-woo was even affecting the rankings of each stage. However, Yeon-woo’s surprises didn’t stop there.
[The trial of the 45th floor is finished. Will you move to the next floor?]
[The trial of the 46th…]
[The trial of the 47th…]
[The trial of the 49th floor is finished.]
“Huff, huff, huff!!”
“Please! Stop! Slow down!”
“I’m dying…let’s continue after a break…!”
Yeon-woo crushed the floors without rest, leaving Prince Domo and his bodyguards almost delirious from exhaustion as they followed him. They were tasked to get rid of the smaller monsters, take the debuffs, and look for items while Yeon-woo focused on the main stage.
Of course, since most of the bodyguards were rankers, the trials were doable. However, there was a huge difference between taking your time and running through the trials without rest. Clearing through all the floors in the forties in a single day was crazy. By the time they reached the forty-ninth floor, their faces were pale from fatigue. Even when they pleaded with Yeon-woo to rest, their pleas fell on deaf ears.
In fact, he even increased his speed. The exhausted bodyguards dropped off one by one. Still, most of them tried to stick to him because Prince Domo was still following Yeon-woo tenaciously.
‘Is it possible? Is he really only a player on the lower floors? The rumors were true.’ Prince Domo’s impression of Yeon-woo slowly changed as he followed him. They went from disgust, shock, detestation, jealousy, and finally, envy. ‘He’s so cool!’
Prince Domo’s eyes filled with envy as Yeon-woo cleared the stages almost effortlessly. It was exactly what he wanted to be in the future: dominating the trials on his own and moving casually to the next floor as though it were no big deal. His impression of Yeon-woo as a vagabond disappeared, and only the desire to be like him remained.
He finally understood why his father and master had told him to follow Yeon-woo, and his perception of the world did a one-eighty. Yeon-woo lifted his head at their gazes.
[You have set a new record on this floor. Will you register your name in the Hall of Fame?]
[You have refused to register your name.]
[Your record has been deeply engraved in the Tower. You can register your name whenever you wish.]
[Will you move to the next floor?]
As always, he left his name as “Unknown” in the Hall of Fame. Finally, he reached the fiftieth floor. Whoosh!
[This is the 50th floor, the gate of the Dragon Temple.]
The smell of dry sand came wafting through the air. ‘I’ve finally arrived.’ This was the place he urgently had to reach after hearing Kalatus’ voice once his Dragon Body awakened for the first time. He’d also been desperate to come here after Jeong-woo’s vestige body had woken up. It had taken him longer than expected. Still, his heart was beating so hard, it could explode.
[The godly society <Asgard> is greatly surprised by your feat of clearing through the floors in the forties in a single day.]
[The godly society <Chan Sect> watches you.]
[The demonic society <L’Infernal> has reached an agreement to end the discussion about your level.]
[The voting is in process. There are societies that have not voted yet, so please wait.]
The responses of various gods and demons popped up. Yeon-woo didn’t care that they were still discussing his level, but Olympus, who had been interested in his every action, was still quiet. Was the battle in Tartarus still ongoing? Mother Earth might’ve schemed something with the Elohim, getting them to chase after Edora.
Yeon-woo quickly expanded his territory of recognition and searched for the location that had the most commotion. He instantly spotted an area with intense waves of energy. ‘The northwest, Imugi Forest!’ It was so far away that he couldn’t be sure, but Edora’s side seemed to be in critical danger. “I’ll go first. You can follow me.” At those words, Yeon-woo left behind the exhausted Duke Tian Tien and the bodyguards, speeding towards the forest. Swish!
As they watched Yeon-woo fade away into a small dot, Prince Domo and the bodyguards looked incredulous. It was unbelievable that Yeon-woo still had so much strength after crushing the previous floors. Then, they turned to each other.
“I guess we…”
“We have to go. Since we’re here to help.”
The weary bodyguards were forced to get back up at Prince Domo’s words and began to run towards the Imugi Forest, where Yeon-woo was headed.
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