Chapter 63 - The Tower (5)

"You look like you’re new to the Tower. What made you think you’d get away with ignoring our warnings?" At first, Yeon-woo had a puzzled frown on his face. He had no clue who they were. But when he realized what was going on, he burst out laughing. “These must be members of the clan that has been bothering Henova."

He had been wondering why nobody had shown up lately, and other shopkeepers had even come up to him and asked him if he was OK. Yeon-woo was aware that no one in the Tower visited Henova’s smithy anymore even though he was one of the five master blacksmiths because of the Eight Clans.

The Eight Clans didn’t care about business outside of the upper floors, but there were clans under their protection who had to behave respectfully to stay in their favor. It seemed like part of this respectful behavior included ruining Henova’s business. It didn’t seem like they had any knowledge of Yeon-woo at all because the people he was facing were too weak.

"Are you laughing, you crazy bastard?" They didn’t know how skilled Yeon-woo was, which was another indication that they weren’t from the Eight Clans.

Yeon-woo didn’t want to waste his time on such a trifling matter. "I don’t need any hassle, so buzz off."

However, Yeon-woo’s attitude only succeeded in provoking them. "You son of a—”

One warning was enough. One of the men was in the middle of cursing Yeon-woo, when he flinched, suddenly realizing that Yeon-woo had vanished. Swish! Even before he could look around, Yeon-woo was already stabbing his thigh with the Magic Bayonet. Puck!

"Urk!" One of the men fell on the ground as blood gushed from his leg.

“You little fucker!"

"Kill him!"

The other men jumped at Yeon-woo at the same time, screaming in anger. However, Yeon-woo quickly adjusted his grip on the bayonet and twisted his body. He severed one of the men’s Achilles tendon, sliced another one’s thigh, and stabbed another’s stomach, and finally pierced the last one’s chest.

"Urkuk!"

Blood sprayed to the ground as all four collapsed with blood frothing in their mouths. Yeon-woo tried to avoid violence as much as possible, but once he got into a fight, he completely crushed his enemies so that they wouldn’t think of retaliating later. It was a habit that he established during his missions.

The men lay in a pool of blood, unable to launch any attack. "Crazy…bastard...Urk."

Yeon-woo stuck his bayonet into the chest of a player who was still struggling to strike back. He fell on his back, foaming at the mouth. Yeon-woo wiped the Magic Bayonet on the clothes of the fallen man and put it back on his waist. "Go look for a healer or a priest, and you might survive. Well, if you can manage it." Yeon-woo threw the words at one of the players and turned around to walk away.

But at that moment, one of the men clutched his abdomen with his hands and screamed at him, his face twisted viciously, "You...How dare you touch us? You think you can get away with what you just did? Do you know who's behind us? You little rat, you’re gonna end up just like that old man once they—!”

A spark shot out of Yeon-woo's eyes. Swish! Puck!

"Kuuk!" Before the man could finish speaking, Yeon-woo ran up to him and stuck his bayonet into his chest. The bayonet crushed his ribs and penetrated all the way to a point just before the man’s heart. If Yeon-woo pushed a little deeper, the blade would pierce it.The man gasped for air. He couldn’t say anything for a while due to the immense pain, but he finally realized that there was something scarier than even death itself. The white mask loomed before him, the eyes behind it blazing like a pair of will-o’-wisps.

"Say that again. What? Henova?"

The man tried to pretend he wasn’t panicking, even though his whole body was trembling in fear. Then, a thought occurred to him that he might be able to live if he used Henova as a way to threaten Yeon-woo. "Hey, if you just let us go, that old man will live!”

Yeon-woo pushed the bayonet through his heart as if he were no longer worth listening to. "What did you do to Henova?"

Another man looked at Yeon-woo while shivering. "I-I can’t say...!"

Yeon-woo quickly sliced his neck. At that moment, the rest of the men realized that their heads would roll the moment they hesitated to answer.

"Let me ask you again. What did you do?"

"W-we didn’t...urk!" The man was beheaded as he tried to lie his way out since Yeon-woo’s Draconic Eyes could help him see if they were being honest.

There were two left. "One mouth is enough.” Whoever spoke first would get to live.

"Th-that's—"

"Our boss said our clan would lose prestige if we left Henova alone, so he sent another group to destroy Henova’s smithy!"

Slash! Yeon-woo quickly got rid of the one who didn't answer in time. The only survivor was drenched in his colleagues’ blood and trembled in fear. Yeon-woo ignored his state and said coldly, "Lead the way."

*   *   *

Yeon-woo frowned after seeing what happened to Henova’s smithy. The whole shop had already been half-destroyed, but now the door was smashed to pieces, and the weapons and the armor displayed on the racks were all shattered, their pieces scattered on the ground. Quite a few artifacts were also missing.

People from neighboring shops watched from afar, afraid of getting involved and being targeted by the clan. Henova sat on the ground in the middle of the devastation, looking anguished. He was all covered in dirt as if he had tried to resist the men who had destroyed the smithy, and Yeon-woo saw shoe prints and bruises all over his body.

Even though Henova was good at smithing, he was not as good at fighting, which was the reason he couldn’t climb the Tower despite being close to Arthia.

"Henova."

"Oh…It’s you, kid." Henova was staring into the air vacantly until Yeon-woo called his name. He put on an unconcerned air and said, “I'm sorry. They stole everything you left behind, everything I was making for you. I’ll make amends...”

"What about you? Are you alright?" When Yeon-woo approached Henova, he only checked to see if Henova had any serious injuries. Henova's eyelids twitched in surprise. "It doesn’t seem like you’ve been seriously injured, so that’s a relief. But in case you have any internal damage, let’s get you to a doctor or a healer nearby. Do you know of anyone?"

"But..."

"You can leave the rest to me. I’ll stay here and get things sorted. Don't worry about this place and please take care of yourself."

Henova couldn’t speak. Gyges’ Eyes, the artifact Yeon-woo had commissioned him to make, was one of the best artifacts in the whole Tower, and Henova was halfway done. And yet Yeon-woo made no mention of it at all even though he had lost all the materials for it, especially rare ones like the venom gland of Akasha’s Snake. Yeon-woo gave a smile to reassure him that everything would be alright.

He turned and spoke to a shopkeeper from next door that was lurking outside the smithy. "I need you to take Henova to a doctor."

"B-but." He looked afraid of being targeted by the clans.

Yeon-woo's eyes turned cold. "Looks like you are not worried about me causing you trouble."

"O-OK, OK." The shopkeeper turned pale and hurried into the smithy and put Henova on his back. Henova looked at Yeon-woo uneasily. "What are you gonna do?”

"I’ll go retrieve the lost items. It won’t take long."

Henova tried to dissuade him, saying it would be dangerous. The ones responsible had committed theft plenty of times before, and they victimized not only Henova but also other places. However, none of the shopkeepers could complain because of their influence over the Outer District.

They belonged to Night Watch, one of the most powerful clans that ruled the underworld of the Outer District. It was also rumored that Red Dragon, one of the Eight Clans, supported them, so no one dared do anything against them. It was why Henova didn’t ask the other shopkeepers for help; they would only get punished for their good deeds.

In addition, Henova considered his troubles punishment for not interfering when his friend was in peril. He wanted to stop Yeon-woo before he was hurt, but he was speechless when he looked into Yeon-woo’s eyes. The look of determination reminded him of someone he used to know, a playful and humorous young boy who was the exact opposite of the person in front of him. And yet, he couldn’t shake off the idea that they were the same person.

Yeon-woo kicked off the ground, and Henova watched blankly as Yeon-woo disappeared in the distance.

*   *   *

"Name."

"W-Willett."

Yeon-woo was forcing the captured player to reveal the location of their base. The clans of the underworld usually kept their hideouts secret to protect themselves from hostile forces, and if Willett disclosed the location, he would be branded as a traitor and would have to hide from his own clan for the rest of his life. But a nearby fist was scarier than a far-off sword. In his desire to survive, Willett revealed everything right away and even led Yeon-woo to the hideout.

They stopped in front of a two-story inn called “Where Wind Dwells”.

"If this is the wrong place, you're dead."

"I-I know." Willett took a big gulp. On their way, he had reconsidered several times. ‘Should I take him somewhere else? But if I do, he’ll kill me. But if I lead him to our hideout, the clan master will kill me.’ However, the memory of his teammates’ deaths made him hesitate. He didn’t want to die like that. Furthermore, the eyes glittering behind the mask made him feel absolute fear. ‘Those eyes, what the fuck are they…?’

"Th-this is it." Yeon-woo looked at the building Willett was pointing to. It looked like a dilapidated inn where only poor players would stay. However, when he scanned the inn, he could sense several traps inside, as well as players lurking inside hidden compartments. ‘This is the right place. I can sense some things here and there.'

"Let’s go in."

"But…O-OK." Willett didn’t want to go enter, but after a glance at Yeon-woo's eyes, he closed his eyes and opened the door. He looked like a cow being dragged into a slaughterhouse.

"Hmm? Willett, why are you—” The inn’s interior was very dark and full of tobacco smoke, and the man behind the counter tilted his head when Willett walked in. He was shocked when Yeon-woo leaped out from behind Willett. "Wh-who...Urk!"

Yeon-woo snatched the man's arm and snapped it with a twist. It was only then that the others realized that they had an intruder.

"Damn it!"

"Willett! You filthy traitor! How dare you betray us?"

The cleaners, customers eating in the dining area, and even the guests sleeping in their room all rushed out to fight the intruder.

"I was forced to do it…" Willett made excuses in a trembling voice, but no one listened.

Yeon-woo threw the man in his grasp towards the wall and kicked off the ground. 'I need to knock them all out as soon as possible.' His keen senses mapped out their attack patterns. Bang!

Yeon-woo didn’t draw out much mana but it was enough to subdue the players. He pulled the arm of a man who was aiming for his side with a dagger, twisting it outwards. He kicked the chin of the other man aiming for his legs, smashing his jawbone.

"Holy shit! How’s he doing all that?"

"He's just one person! Attack him all at once!"

The clan members poured out almost endlessly, making Yeon-woo wonder how so many of them could hide in such a tight space. But regardless of their numbers, Yeon-woo swiftly knocked them out one by one. He kicked away their weapons, smashed their armor, sliced their flesh and broke their bones, leaving injured players in his wake.

"Ahh! My arm! My arm!"

"This is madness! Aargh!"

Yeon-woo twisted the shoulder of the man he grabbed and kicked him in his stomach.

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