‘Am I in…section B2-AC11? I’m farther away than I expected.’ Yeon-woo clucked his tongue when he realized where he was. The lair was at the center of the labyrinth, and he had a long way to go. ‘From here, I have to move to the right. Then left after that, take the third exit, and the second diagonal path?’
[Wind Path - Gale]
Yeon-woo moved quickly, stepping on the path Wind Path created with his Draconic Divine Eyes open. He passed through the labyrinth, which was so complicated that he never would have made it through if he didn’t know the route in advance.
Suddenly, with a bone-chilling sound, the ground that Yeon-woo was about to step on cracked.
「Confirming…intruder.」 A black-armored skeletal knight with a lance slowly rose to block his path. It was one of the Spartoi—guards born from Kalatus’ teeth. Spartoi were usually birthed from a part of a Draconic species’ body, which made them extremely skilled. The Spring Queen Waltz and the Autumn Lord Tom were Spartoi from the Summer Queen’s blood.
The labyrinth was filed with Kalatus’ Spartoi. However, they were at different levels. Those with the highest level, like Balnanta, were at five, and the one in front of him was…‘Maybe around three?’
The Spartoi’s red eyes looked Yeon-woo up and down, and it made a mechanical noise. 「Intruder. Calculating…」
Yeon-woo just watched what it was doing. Before they fought, there was something he needed to confirm. ‘Kalatus definitely said they were going to come. Who does he mean?’ He was probably the only one who knew the labyrinth’s location. Who else would be trying to enter it? He didn’t think it was going to be an ordinary player.
No one dared face Kalatus in the lower world. Even the Summer Queen hadn’t done it. But if Kalatus borrowed Edora’s eyes to warn him, it had to be urgent. How far had they come? Yeon-woo thought he’d be able to tell through the Spartoi.
He thought the protectors within the labyrinth could read the traces of a dragon on him, and perhaps only Balnanta’s programming couldn’t tell. If they could read the traces, then that meant the labyrinth was still safe from them. If not…‘It means the threat is close.’
Boom! The Spartoi jumped off from the ground, lance extended.
‘Just as I thought.’ Clang! Yeon-woo quickly pulled Vigrid out and smacked the lance away. ‘Although I do feel a bit heavy.’ Using the Atman System thoroughly, he took a step forward.
Although the lance was bent, the Spartoi tried to strike Yeon-woo once more, but he had already used Blink to disappear. He reappeared right behind the Spartoi and just as the black Aura in Vigrid was about to cleave it in half, two lances suddenly crossed in front of Yeon-woo and blocked Vigrid.
Ca-clang! Two more Spartoi had saved their comrade.
「Intruder level adjusted.」
「Danger level 3.」
There were five danger levels in total.
“I don’t like that.” It would be annoying to deal with them for too long, so he gripped Vigrid more tightly. Rumble! The black Aura turned even darker, and it exploded into Wave of Fire, which he hadn’t used in a while.
It was less destructive than usual because of the debuff, but it was powerful enough to destroy the three Spartoi and any hidden Spartoi or traps that lay in wait ahead. Whoosh. Even the sound of the explosion was swallowed by the flames.
When everything settled, there was only a scorched cave with melted stalactites, the ashes of the Spartoi, and the head of the first Spartoi that Yeon-woo had encountered.
「Danger level…4.」 Its eyes were still fixed on Yeon-woo before they finally died.
“Much better.” Smirking, he walked towards the Spartoi’s head and dug through the remains to find a bead about the size of his hand.
[A Piece of the Ancient Dragon Kalatus’ Tooth]
[Description: A piece of the tooth that the ancient dragon Kalatus used to create a protector.]
[Effect: It will help repel the ‘Dragon’s Curse’ by a small amount. The more tooth pieces you collect, the greater the effect.]
[With the artifact, a small part of the ‘Dragon’s Curse’ has been removed.]
[Your body has grown slightly lighter.]
[The penalties applied to your skills have been slightly reduced.]
[Hidden Quest (Curse Immunity I) has been created.]
[Hidden Quest / Curse Immunity I)]
[Description: You have trespassed on the grave of the last dragon king, Kalatus. The price of disturbing the dragon king’s rest is a curse that prevents your body from performing at its regular capacity. Additionally, information about the trespasser has been delivered to all protectors of the grave, and they will search through this place to eliminate you. Deal with them or gather the pieces of the last dragon king’s tooth within the set time limit. Only then will you be freed from the curse. Otherwise, the curse will take over.]
[Qualification of Participation: Trespasser of the ‘Dragon Labyrinth’]
[Time Limit: 48 hours]
1. ‘Dragon Blessing’
2. A related quest (Curse Immunity II)]
[Penalties if the quest is not completed:
1. Stats irrevocably damaged
2. Soul invaded by curse]
‘The others wouldn’t have even dreamed that something like this could exist.’ The clock began to tick as soon as players entered the labyrinth, and no one would be able to avoid it, not even the Nine Kings. Even if the players managed to survive, they would never be free of the curse, even outside the labyrinth. That was how powerful the magic of the Draconic species was. It was the main reason why Yeon-woo called the labyrinth a trap.
Yeon-woo used his shadows to retrieve the pieces on the ground, wanting to use them to his advantage in case he had to battle again. Just as he picked up the last piece, he heard a faint scream in the distance.
It seemed that a trespasser had met the Spartoi. Yeon-woo muted his presence as much as possible and quickly moved towards the direction of the scream, expanding his Extrasensory Perception. ‘Ivan…’ He encountered them frequently after leaving Tartarus, and now that they were confused, it was his chance. Yeon-woo held Vigrid again to quickly eliminate them.
* * *
“Haa. Haa. Oh dear. I’m showing my weakness.” He smiled bitterly at the bishop who was looking at him sympathetically. Was this child the fourth or the fifth? Or the sixth? He didn’t even remember, perhaps because of his dizziness. Actually, it was because he replaced the other bishops so often and the ranks of priests and bishops were so disorganized that it was hard for him to keep track.
Still, even though they had been divided according to position and title for ease, they were all his precious brothers that he had personally nurtured and children born from the Heavenly Demon’s love. He had never discriminated among the followers of the Heavenly Demon. ‘But you aren’t taking care of your faithful children at all.’ The Head Bishop held something out to the pale bishop, who was concerned about him even though his own condition wasn’t exactly the best either. “Take this, and regain your strength. How can someone who’s supposed to protect me be so frail?”
“But sir, this potion is…!”
“Go on, take it.” The Head Bishop insisted the bishop have it.
The bishop gulped down the potion with a worried expression. The potion was an elixir that allowed you to regain your strength in emergency situations, and after the former Head Bishop, Black Dawn, died, they lost the method of creating it. There weren’t many of the potions left. How could he not be moved by the offer? He promised himself that he’d do anything to protect the Head Bishop in this dangerous place.
As he patted the determined bishop on the shoulder, the Head Bishop was deep in thought. ‘What to do…’ All the Channels with the Heavenly Demon had been cut off. Although the Channels had been weak, they still provided enough power. Now, he was getting by on the strength he’d earned from the shrine of the Seven Great Demon Kings, and he didn’t know how long that would last. ‘It means everyone here has fallen for that child’s tricks, even his allies, Blood Land. Huhu! He impresses me more each time I see him.’ The Head Bishop chuckled, thinking of the player who put him in this state. ‘I have to get rid of him. Only then can I step forward.’
The Head Bishop had already decided to abandon the Heavenly Demon after his failure on the Five Mountains of Penances. However, that didn’t mean he was going to throw away all of his plans. He was still determined to become an aspect of the Heavenly Demon, even if the only thing sustaining him was his stubbornness. ‘If the Bull Demon King is right, the head of the Dawn Demon should be there…’ The Head Bishop muttered to himself, recalling the great being he’d met in the shrine. ‘To do that, I need to take the key from the child, the Hoarder.’
He hadn’t expected it to be easy, but then the iron door opened and he was suddenly transported here. Without any Channels, his powers and abilities were gone. He had grown weak. It was the worst possible location for the Devil Army, who used their belief as power. What would happen if he encountered an enemy here?
Even though they had promised not to get in each other’s way, if they knew the Devil Army had been weakened so much, that promise wouldn’t mean anything. He would make the same choice, too. He needed to find a way.
“Yes. I feel it too.”
“I’ll take care of this place, so you should…!”
“No. I believe it’s too late, since someone is approaching.” The Head Bishop and the bishop turned to look at the mouth of a long tunnel. The darkness at its entry split, and someone appeared.
She looked exhausted, as though she had just been through a tough battle, and she frowned, as if she was displeased to see the Head Bishop.
“I didn’t anticipate seeing you this quickly, Spring Queen.”
Waltz looked at the Head Bishop with unreadable eyes.
* * *
On his way to the Tower, Kahn happened to overhear the gossip that was spreading around the market. He didn’t know how many times he’d heard the same piece of news.
“Hey, hey! Did you hear?”
“What is it?”
“Do you live under a rock?! There’s a mess on the fiftieth floor right now!”
The grave of the last dragon king, Kalatus, had appeared! The rumors sprang out of nowhere to rush through the entire Tower. Now, it had even reached the Outer District. The historic site belonging to the old Draconic species that had gone extinct with the Summer Queen’s death naturally drew the attention of countless players. Large clans and rankers who could enter the fiftieth floor were eager to get to it.
There were also semi-rankers who had already attempted the fiftieth floor and failed multiple times who jumped on board, thinking it was a new opportunity for them to become a ranker. Portals headed for Kalatus’ grave turned into areas of competition. Everyone wanted the dragon king’s legacy for himself.
Kalatus’ haven would no longer be a one due to all the players ready to bombard it. The dropouts of the Tower in the Outer District were also excited. Even if they couldn’t be a victor in the competition, a small piece of the legacy would help them make it big. People were already gathering money to form groups, creating teams, and doing other things they thought would help.
‘The Dragon Labyrinth.’ Sensing the charged air, Kahn clenched his fists. ‘So, that’s where Cain is?’ He had been looking for Yeon-woo to solve Doyle’s Channel problem. It seemed like Yeon-woo was progressing faster than he’d anticipated. ‘He’s getting started.’
As he looked at the Tower, it seemed like dark storm clouds were gathering over it.
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