The faces of all the other players, including Vyram, stiffened. Phante ignored their reaction and turned his eyes to Yeon-woo, who was already close enough to see Phante’s features clearly.
Phante stood slightly bent forward with his feet shoulder-width apart and his fists tightly clenched. It was a combat posture that he had previously never shown to anyone in the Tutorial since it was something he only showed to those he acknowledged as his peers. He closed his eyes for a quiet moment that was like the calm before a storm.
"Whew!" As he took a deep breath, Phante opened his eyes. Yellow light flickered over his golden irises, and as his aura began to overwhelm the area, bright yellow sparks burst from his fists and forearms.
Thunder Fist was a secret skill that was passed down only in the One-horned tribe’s Cheong-lam family. The sparks intensified as they began to connect to each other, and soon, Phante’s arms were enveloped in gauntlet-like thunder energy. The air around him shimmered from the heat, and streams of heated air clashed with Yeon-woo’s windstorm.
Just as Phante’s aura encroached all the way to the other end of the stage, he began to move with a cold smile on his face. "Why worry if I have sources of karma everywhere?" Boom! In one move, Phante hurtled forward like a cannonball.
Rumble! He left behind a trail of an acrid scent, yellow flames, and deafening thunder as he trampled the players in his way. Their screams were drowned in the thunderous roars and even their bodies disappeared without a trace as the thunder energy ground them into bits.
The players scattered around the stage in total confusion. A player with a windstorm of demonic energy stood in front of them, and a player emitting bolts of ferocious lightning was charging behind them. They were trapped in between these two energies and didn’t know what to do. Only the ones near the safe zone were lucky enough to make an escape, but even that area was within reach of the two combatants’ skills, and the players had to huddle as close to the edge of the stage as possible.
Finally, the two energies collided. Boom! An earthquake shook the entire stage as the clash created explosions here and there, turning over the ground they stood on. Clouds of dust rose in the air, and it was hard to tell what was going on inside.
Just when the players thought that Section G was going to collapse, Vyram made his move and drew out his three swords. They were the finest swords from Marcus, and he activated the magic runes engraved on each blade, creating a spectacular visual effect that exploded like firecrackers as several overlapping magic circles covered the ground.
The huge number of buffs he had cast on the other players before were now focused on himself. He felt the mana inside his body amplify, his senses growing keener until he could feel the sharp edges of the swords like they were part of his body. Vyram grabbed two of the swords and put the third on top of his feet.
〈Three Claws〉 was a skill he had acquired during his long service as a mercenary. It fully utilized all three of his swords, relying on his strength and buff-augmented senses. The downside was that his mana reserves would become depleted and it would take him several months to recuperate from the aftereffects. 'I guess I’ve got no other choice.' Vyram gritted his teeth while glaring at Yeon-woo and Phante. At this rate, he would not only fail to protect his minions, he also risked losing his karma points. He had to fight.
Vyram spun like a top and flung himself between the two combatants, leaving several scratches on the ground. Swish! The three flashing blades made their way towards Yeon-woo’s and Phante’s necks.
* * *
Yeon-woo and Phante turned sideways just as Yeon-woo was about to slice Phante’s chest with Vigrid and Phante was about to punch him with a thunder energy-clad fist. Both attacks were deadly, but for a fleeting moment, the two felt Vyram’s swords slithering between their attacks like a snake. Their instincts immediately sounded an alarm about the strikes to their necks, and so the two only exchanged brief glances and turned aside before they clashed, Yeon-woo spinning to the left and Phante to the right.
Clang! A sword fended off the blades on one side.
Clang! A lightning bolt hit the blades, changing their trajectory, on the other side.
"You idiot!" Yellow sparks dispersed in the air as thunder exploded after coming into contact with the swords. Phante’s eyes blazed with anger as the smoke faded. He was tired of dealing with weak trash. He’d finally met someone who was his match and was looking forward to some entertainment only to be interrupted by a moron.
But as though Vyram didn't care, he carried on with his attacks, trying to slice their legs.
"You want a piece of me? All right then. I’ll show you what I’ve got!" The thunder energy wrapped around his fists, Phante propelled himself forward with all his strength, charging towards Yeon-woo and Vyram like a wild boar rushing down a hill.
Finding himself between the pressure of the two players, Yeon-woo raised his eyebrows slightly and held Vigrid high in the air before swinging it wide to strike the ground. Bang! The ground once again caved in as the sword’s force released a massive shockwave that sent Phante and Vyram into the air.
Just before his punch reached Yeon-woo, Phante instinctively felt danger and barely managed to protect his head by crossing his arms in front of his face. The thunder circling around his arms was completely washed away by the blast. Phante felt like he had run into an invisible wall. His innards were shaking, and his head was ringing. His arms felt as if they would fall off at any moment, and the force of his propulsion left a long, deep ditch on the ground in front of him.
"How…the hell..." Phante raised his head with a shocked face, feeling an emotion that was completely opposite to the confidence he’d had at the beginning. He couldn’t believe what had just happened. He’d been born into a royal family and practiced martial arts since he was a child. He’d also ingested the Neidan of Akasha’s Snake in Section F, which granted him an enormous amount of mana. There was no way that any player in the Tutorial could overpower him. Something was wrong.
With that thought, Phante tried to kindle the thunder onto his fists once more, only to bend over and vomit as he felt his throat constrict. “Urrgh!” Blood poured from his mouth. His internal organs had been injured from the impact.
Vyram was in the same predicament. "God…damn it…." He could barely stand and had to use one of his swords for support. The other two lay scattered on the ground. His clothes were completely torn, revealing the wounds all over his body. He had lost so much blood that he was suffering from vertigo. He was finished mentally and physically, however, he tried to stay conscious because if he collapsed now, everything was over. He glared at Yeon-woo with eyes full of animosity.
A wall even bigger than Phante had appeared, an obstacle that devastated even a monster like Phante. It seemed impossible to pass, and Vyram was deeply frustrated. Phante and Edora already made him feel a sense of inferiority, and now something bigger than those two had appeared. If the players in the Tutorial were already this strong, how monstrous would the players in the Tower be? And what kind of players were rankers if they could rule over these monsters?
He was overcome with shame and inferiority, but this also kindled a fire inside him. He didn’t want to give up like this. No, he refused to give in, and he decided to throw away his last bit of pride. "Phante!" Vyram called out with a twisted face.
Phante jerked his head at Vyram. "What is it?"
"Let's team up."
"What?" Phante scowled at Vyram as soon as he heard the words, but Vyram continued speaking without any care. He was desperate for victory, not honor. "We can’t defeat him on our own, so I’m asking you to work with me just once. We can take care…"
Phante snorted at Vyram’s shout as he stood up, wiping the blood off his mouth with the back of his hand. His eyes shone more ferociously than before. "As I said, I’m not a dumb beast like you. The road I walk is the Hegemon Dao. Do you think I’ll resort to trickery?"
Whoosh! Sparks of thunderbolts began to appear along Phante’s arms as he squeezed mana from his wrecked body. The smile on his face looked almost vicious. "There can be defeat on the Hegemon Dao but there shall be no retreat! That is the King’s Dao I learned from my father and the foundation built inside me which shall bring me to glory!"
Boom! Phante stormed his way towards Yeon-woo.
"That fucking son of a bitch!" Vyram was enraged. It was pure nonsense to hear about Hegemon Dao or King’s Dao from someone who couldn’t even look after himself. This was why Vyram hated people who had pampered childhoods. He had seen them screw up business with their holier-than-thou attitude several times. However, that didn't mean he would stay there sitting on his hands.
Phante had gone berserk with anger. Edora hadn’t budged at all and didn't seem interested in joining the fight. He couldn't even tell what she was thinking. He had to do something in order to take his share in this game of madness. Vyram started to move as he reapplied his buffs. If it wasn’t possible to attack the front, he had to aim for the flank. Though he didn’t like it, he decided to take the supporting role to Phante, at least until they got rid of Yeon-woo.
Boom! Boom! Yeon-woo was pushed back for the first time as Phante and Vyram bombarded him with a series of fierce attacks. Phante poured out all the skills he had, and Vyram kept aiming for his blind spot, confusing Yeon-woo’s senses.
Yeon-woo’s fast-paced attacks slowly morphed into a hectic defensive struggle. Boom! Their attacks finally managed to dissipate the windstorm surrounding Yeon-woo, and the demonic energy scattered away. Swords and fists came flying ceaselessly at Yeon-woo. Vyram tried to split him into two pieces, and Phante tried to chop him down with his hands.
Boom! Yeon-woo was now being pushed back steadily. Every now and then, he would try to counterattack. Right after parrying Vyram’s attack, Yeon-woo attempted to blow Phante’s head away by causing demonic energy to explode right next to it. However, each attack he tried ended up in failure. It was impossible to fight against Vyram and Phante at the same time.
With one hand, Yeon-woo wielded Vigrid to parry the three swords approaching from different angles, and with the other hand, he threw daggers to prevent Phante from approaching him. However, the hand holding Vigrid was beginning to slow down. At that moment, Vyram cast a buff skill he had been hiding just for this opportunity.
Jing! “Buff of Might.” The edges of Vyram’s swords glowed blue, and with one swing, he broke Vigrid in two. Now that Yeon-woo had used all of his daggers, Phante’s fist, full of concentrated thunder energy, exploded on Yeon-woo’s flank with 〈Thunderbolt Punto〉.
Crack! Yeon-woo’s ribs were shattered and his lungs ripped apart. He was forced to bend by the impact, and without missing his chance, Vyram swung his other hand and smashed Yeon-woo's head. There was a huge burst of pain and Yeon-woo blacked out.
At least, this was what Yeon-woo clearly pictured in his head. He was seeing a potential future if he let things continue as they were. He had never used his innate skill Precognition before, but thanks to it, all of the things he saw didn’t have to come to pass
[Sees into the near future. As a penalty, the user will suffer severe dizziness due to the difference in time once the skill is over.]
The skill allowed him to look five seconds into the future, and although that seemed like a short period of time, it was also long enough for his purposes. A single activation of this skill consumed two-thirds of his total mana, and considering how much he had accrued from the Snow Ginseng and the Neidan, it was proof of how much was needed for a skill that only lasted five seconds.
This was why Yeon-woo hadn't ever thought of using this skill before, but now it gave him a chance to find the possibility of winning.
Tik-tok! The pocket watch began to spin furiously.Previous Chapter Next Chapter