Chapter 44 - Two Hearts (2)

However, Yeon-woo’s hopes ended in disappointment when he discovered that there was a limit to the number of souls that could be bound to the artifact.

[Number of bound souls: 150]

“Is this the limit, or can it go past 150?” Yeon-woo believed that it was the latter case as he continued capturing souls. He had the feeling that the artifact was becoming full, but it wasn’t due to the vessel’s size. Rather, there seemed to be several barriers inside the artifact to prevent him from stuffing more souls in. He guessed that the barriers would disappear over time or they would open once the seal was lifted. However, he wasn’t too disappointed. There were plenty of other ways to increase the power of the explosion. ‘This will do.’

Yeon-woo deactivated Draconic Eyes and noticed that the souls were staying far away, as if they were afraid of being sucked into the Black Bracelet. However, they weren’t completely avoiding Yeon-woo and continued to follow him around in a dense group. ‘Do other players also have souls following them?’ Yeon-woo looked at Galliard but he couldn’t see any souls following him.

He didn’t know whether it was because he could only see the souls following him or because he was the only one they followed. However, his interest faded since the souls couldn’t interfere with him physically or put a curse on him. It was fine if he simply ignored them.

‘On to the next one.' Yeon-woo checked the rewards from the monster outbreak. 'I had four rewards pending in the quest window.” When he pressed the “Receive” button, several messages started to pop up one after the other.

[You have acquired the title ‘Monster Hunter’.]

[Your strength has increased by 10 points.]

[Your dexterity has increased by 15 points.]

[You have acquired Goblin King’s Eye.]

[You have acquired Monsters’ Five-Colored Jewel.]

[You have acquired 3,000 additional karma.]

He’d gotten one title and two artifacts. Yeon-woo quickly checked the title.

[Title: Monster Hunter]
[A title given to a player who has driven countless monsters into pandemonium. The holder of this title will inflict greater damage when hunting monsters. However, the monsters killed by the player with this title will turn into ghosts and follow the player even after their deaths.][Effect: +10 Strength, +15 Dexterity. +15% chance of inflicting critical damage to monsters. Better chances of provoking monsters.]

'So that’s why.’ All those souls following him were a side effect of the title, but of course, it wouldn’t stop him from using the title.

Next, Yeon-woo identified the remaining two jewel-type artifacts. One was the eye of a monster, whose pupil stared at Yeon-woo. It had a lot of protruding veins, as though it had just been pulled out of its socket. The other object was a strange gem that shone with different colors depending on the angle from which it was viewed.

[Goblin King's Eye]
[Classification: Jewelry. Amulet.]

[Rank: B-]
[Description: The eye of the Goblin King, Kranum. He left the eye so that he could keep track of the enemy who killed him even after his death. The player wearing the eye will be affected by the rancor of 
Kranum. If handled properly, it can be a good artifact.]

[* Enemy of the Goblin King]
[Kranum's eye will always turn towards the enemy who killed him. It will constantly emanate valor and rancor to prevent his enemy from being killed by others. With the artifact, one can emit a thick wave of aura and gain 10% increased attack power. The artifact will also keep a lookout for invisible attacks such as curses and poison, providing a 15% chance of blocking such effects.]

[Monsters’ Five-Colored Jewel]
[Classification: Jewelry]

[Rank: C+]
[Description: Jewelry created by the feelings of enmity among the five races of monsters: Goblins, Kobolds, Gnolls, Lizardmen, and Orcs. Provides the wearer with one characteristic of each monster race.]

[* Feet of Goblin]
[Will have faster feet.]

[* Ear of Kobold]
[Will be able to hear the smallest sounds.]

[* Nose of Gnoll]
[Will be able to smell the faintest odors.]

[* Eyes of Lizardman]
[Will be able to see farther into the distance.]

[* Hands of Orc]
[Will gain stronger physical power.]

‘Why do I only get things like these?’ Yeon-woo burst into laughter in spite of himself. It seemed that the impact of the monster outbreak on the monsters had been enormous since everything had “rancor” or “enmity” in its description. However, the options suited Yeon-woo very well. If one didn’t count the unique artifacts, Goblin King's Eye was in fact the best artifact available in the Tutorial, and it even had a rating of B-. Since the lowest grade of artifacts available in the Tower was C, B- was quite high.

In addition, the artifact had the ability to protect its owner from curses and poison. Thanks to this, Yeon-woo could now be shielded from attacks that he couldn’t feel with his senses, especially those that were coming from a distance. However, the thing he liked most about the Goblin King’s Eye was its aura. 'It goes so well with the Black Bracelet.'

Negative emotions like rancor, as well as curses, were effective in enhancing dark elemental power, meaning that he could use them to increase his attack power. ‘The same thing goes for the Five-Colored Jewel.’

Although it was a little inconvenient to go through each option in order to disable it and select another one whenever he wanted to switch, he liked the fact that he had obtained another way of enhancing his senses. The eyes, ears, and nose could support him whenever he used Sense Strengthening, and the hands and feet could enhance Shunpo. 'It's like everything was prepared just for me.’ Yeon-woo laughed once more.

However, it wasn’t really unusual for things like this to happen. The Tower’s system was designed to help players enhance their characteristics, and so it preferred to give them rewards that suited them. The larger the achievement, the greater the complementary nature of the reward.

Yeon-woo finished checking his rewards, and he packed up the quest rewards before heading back towards Galliard’s cottage.

*        *        *

"Hmm? A chain?"

"Yes. Anything that can be fastened will do."

Galliard narrowed his eyes at Yeon-woo’s sudden request but soon smiled. "Did you get something like a jewel or a rune as a reward?”

"Something like that."

"I’m a blacksmith, and I could help you make it into an artifact if you want, but you don't have much time left, do you?”

Yeon-woo nodded gravely. Players usually preferred to get jewels or runes as quest rewards because they weren’t only easy to carry, they could also be attached to artifacts as ornaments. It would have the same effect as wearing them without the hassle.

However, this required a highly skilled blacksmith with metallurgy or alchemy skills. A bad blacksmith risked losing the option, as was often the case. In the worst case scenario, both the material and the artifact might be destroyed. Yeon-woo had to convert the jewel into a necklace or a bracelet to get its effects, but there just wasn’t enough time even though Galliard was right there.

"If that's the case…wait here for a second." Galliard entered the storeroom and began to rummage through a pile of items. Soon, he came out with a steel necklace chain in his hand that had a set of empty prongs. "Take it." Galliard handed the necklace to Yeon-woo. "You can set the jewel on those prongs.”

"Thank you." When Yeon-woo asked the price, Galliard waved his hand.

"It was rotting in the storeroom, anyway. Just take it. Seriously, it is nothing compared to what you’ve done for me."

Yeon-woo expressed his gratitude once again and attached the Goblin King’s Eye to the prongs.

Click! Strangely enough, the eye fit perfectly in the setting and as soon as it was attached, the necklace flashed with a red light as a sign of success.

Yeon-woo put the necklace on his neck, and the eyeball came alive, rolling madly in every direction as though it were looking for Yeon-woo. Galliard burst out laughing at the familiar eye.

"That’s Kranum’s eye, isn't it?."

"Yes."

"That monster is too smart to let go of his enemies. But I've never seen his eye moving like that even after death."

Yeon-woo nodded along, as he hung the Monsters’ Five-Colored Jewel on his belt with another small chain. 'Once I get inside the Tower, I'll have to go there.’ Yeon-woo looked at Galliard as he grabbed his backpack, which was bursting with parts of monsters. "Thank you so much for your help."

"You’re leaving now?”

"Yes."

"You’re going straight to Section F, then?” Yeon-woo nodded without saying a word.

"Well, you got everything there was to get from this section, so I guess that’s the natural thing to do." Galliard gazed at Yeon-woo with a strange expression. Ever since Yeon-woo had seen through his Shunpo, he’d thought that this was a guy who refused to be ordinary with every fiber of his being. It reminded him of someone he knew, but he couldn’t pinpoint who it was. The eyes behind the ghostly mask made Galliard wonder one thing: 'What kind of past does this kid have?'

Galliard had tried to take off Yeon-woo’s mask when he was healing with Undine’s Goblet, but the mask wouldn’t let go of his face. It was clearly the artifact’s option. However, Galliard didn't ask why Yeon-woo was wearing such a weird mask. He could hardly judge others for weirdness since he was even weirder for staying in the Tutorial for so many rounds.

Every player who hoped to enter the Tower had an unfortunate backstory, and their regrets drove them to climb up the Tower. The players who managed to let go of their regrets like Galliard were a different story—without any motivation, they drifted around aimlessly, not knowing what to do next.   

All the years Galliard had spent looking for the lost pendant made him lose the desire to climb up the Tower. And since there was no one to welcome him back home, he didn’t feel the need to return. However, he was aware that he couldn’t stay in the Tutorial forever and waste time.

Still, it was something he had to think carefully about, so he decided to rest a while and take his time before making a decision. "Oh, I almost forgot. Here, take this."

Yeon-woo turned to see what Galliard was giving him and immediately dodged when he saw a sword hurtling towards him. He twisted his upper body and snatched it from the air. The sword was a meter long and as narrow as the length of a finger, and it had an impressive-looking green string tied in a unique knot at its pommel. "What is this?"

"Remember the guy that came for you? That was his weapon. It’s a pretty decent sword, and I thought it was a shame to let it go to waste so I took it with me. Use it if you want. If not, just pack it up in your bag and sell it to the mysterious merchant. It’ll make for a good trade.”

Yeon-woo swung the sword a few times. Its blade was solid and balanced, and even he could tell it was a well-crafted sword. However, Yeon-woo usually wielded swords with short blades that could be used with one hand like a dagger. A long sword like this had no use for him. Still, Galliard was right that it would be good to trade with the mysterious merchant.

Then suddenly, Galliard asked a strange question. "By the way, how did you get into a fight with Arangdan? Their base camps are right in front of Section F’s entrance, they’re gonna make trouble for you when you get there."

Yeon-woo looked at him, clearly wondering what he was talking about. "What do you mean by fighting with Arangdan?"

“Hmm? Aren’t you in conflict with them?” Galliard seemed even more startled at his answer. "That green string on the sword is Arangdan’s symbol.”

Yeon-woo's eyes grew wide. ‘So they weren't just a random group of scavengers, but players from Arangdan and the Cheonghwado?’ All the pieces fell into place: the scavenger syndicate that his brother had destroyed, Arangdan’s presence in the Tutorial, a human farm organization, and Kahn and Doyle’s abrupt departure.

If Arangdan were the force behind the scavengers, and they had been deceiving all the other players under the pretext of justice, it made sense that Kahn and Doyle had gone to stop them.

He knew that Kahn and Doyle had pushed him out of their group for a reason, but he’d been intent on his goal, so he had simply left. At the time, he didn’t know how much danger they would face, and he’d been sure that they would be victorious against anyone who stood in their way.

But now that the enemy turned out to be Arangdan, he wasn’t sure if they could win. He didn't know how many players were in Arangdan or how strong they were. Not to mention, the Cheonghwado, one of the top eight clans in the Tower, supported them.

If Kahn and Doyle had already destroyed Arangdan, there would be news of it throughout Section E, but he hadn’t heard anything about them, which meant that they had lost. Yeon-woo started to consider what they meant to him. Were they strangers or friends? Did he want to get involved or stay away? However, Kahn's confident laughter and Doyle's sleepy-looking but sharp eyes kept popping up in his mind. What else could it mean when he couldn’t put them out of his head?

Hyung, you’ve always been my hero. I hope you don’t lose yourself even after I’m gone. His brother had left these words in the diary, and Yeon-woo realized that he already knew the answer. "Bastard,” he muttered to himself, not knowing whether he was referring to Kahn and Doyle, to Arangdan, or to his brother.

Yeon-woo rose with a cold light in his eyes.

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