Chapter 67 - The Tower (9)

For the past month, Yeon-woo had been quite busy. While he waited for Henova to complete Gyges’ Eyes, he had retraced his brother’s past life and learned blacksmithing so he could repair his brother’s pocket watch. And he had one more reason to stay in the Outer District: to work out a strategy to speedrun through the lower floors. ‘Jeong-woo cleared the first ten floors within ten days.’

The reason Arthia had drawn attention from all over the Tower was that they’d passed through the Beginner Zone floors ten days after finishing the Tutorial. It meant that they had cleared a floor a day. It had been an unprecedented record that had become a turning point in the thousands of years of the Tower’s history.

Thanks to this, Jeong-woo and his team, Arthia, were able to prove themselves as one of the most influential clans in the Tower, and no one had ever broken their record. However, Yeon-woo wasn’t looking to break the record to gain honor or glory. 'Jeong-woo was given Hades’ Key after setting that record.'

Hades’ key was the second key that would open Olympus’ Treasury. It was a hidden piece given only to those who quickly passed through the Beginner Zone, just as Zeus’ Key was only given to players who took the top rank in the Tutorial. The Tower only rewarded those who managed to complete an excruciatingly difficult task.

After I got Hades’ Key, I became aware of the existence of Olympus’ Treasury and how to acquire Zeus’ Key. I felt some regret because if I had tried a little harder, I could have ranked first in the Tutorial and gotten Zeus’ Key. Fortunately, I got a chance to enter Olympus' Treasury later, but if I had been able to get in a little earlier...

The only way to acquire Hades’ Key was to break the previous record, which meant he had to pass through ten floors in less than ten days. Though it would be challenging, he didn’t think it would be too difficult. All the skills and experiences he had gained during the Tutorial would help, and above all, he would have Gyges’ Eye.

A faint smile appeared on Yeon-woo’s lips. 'Come to think of it, isn’t this also a competition between me and Jeong-woo?' The desire to beat his brother had begun to burn in his heart. His pride as an older brother wouldn’t allow him to lose against Jeong-woo. Yeon-woo raised his head and looked out the window. The Tower rose in the distance, poking through the cloudy sky.

*   *   *

"Haa...Those bastards! I haven’t had a single peaceful day after that idiot started coming here." In the smithy, Henova was grumbling as he furiously puffed at his pipe after Yeon-woo and the siblings had left. His smithy had been a peaceful place for the past few years. But in a matter of days, too many things had happened all at once, and now there were three kids hanging around who never listened no matter how many times he yelled at them to be quiet. How did he end up like this? It was all the fault of the kid in the white mask. ‘Hold on a second. What’s his name?’

As he tried to recall Yeon-woo's name, Henova realized that he had only called him “kid”, “idiot”, or “bastard”. He had never even asked Yeon-woo’s name. Henova began to feel guilty about the things Yeon-woo had done, but at the same time, he felt a burst of gratitude. "No. No. Look at how stressed I am because of that little rascal!"

As he mumbled to himself, Henova walked over Yeon-woo’s workspace. At the place where Yeon-woo hammered so noisily, molten metal had radiated intense heat, and the furnace had spewed out scorching fire just a few minutes ago. The memory of Yeon-woo silently hammering a piece of metal, Phante chattering noisily next to him, and Edora quietly reading her book lingered in his mind, and he felt as though the images would come alive at any moment.

Moreover, the images kept overlapping with another memory.

'Hey, pops! Come and take a look at this! Isn’t this awesome?'

‘Wait a second, you used that skill, didn’t you? You promised not to use any skill!'

‘Nope. I didn't use it. You don’t even have proof.'

'How could it come out like that if you didn’t use your skill?'

‘You got proof? Huh?'

'You asshole!'

'Hey, guys. Can you please stop yelling? I’m reading here.’

'Go somewhere else if you want to read!’

'Tsk. This is why people say you’re dumb.’

···

The noisy, hectic, and chaotic scenes in his memory were filled with kids who had visited his smithy so often that it seemed like their hideout. Henova had tried shouting at them, kicking their butts, cursing them, and several other methods to get rid of them, but none of them paid any attention.  

But that was something that would never happen again. Accompanied by a deep sigh, a stream of white smoke spewed out of his mouth, rising up to the ceiling. 'I guess I did get old.' Henova shook his head with a bitter smile. "Hmph. Those bastards..."

It was probably best to call it a day. If he kept hammering like this, he might ruin the artifact. “Let’s see here…Hmm, it seems like I’m almost done. Has it been a month already? Haha, time flies so fast.” Time seemed to have passed faster than usual, and they were reaching the deadline for the artifact. “Well, if I’m late, it’s all his fault.” With that thought in mind, Henova was about to stand and put out the furnace when the door suddenly opened. Creak!

"Excuse me."

"Sorry, but the shop’s closed. Come back tomorrow if you…” Henova was speaking to the visitor without looking, but when he turned his head, his expression suddenly stiffened. Standing at the door was a man he had sworn to never see again, a man from his memories.

"It's been a long time, master."  The man grinned slightly at Henova.

*   *   *

Under the bright moon and twinkling stars, Yeon-woo once again went to the cafe his brother used to visit and drank his hazelnut coffee at the terrace. Over the railing was a magnificent night view brimming with sparkling, colorful lights.

It was a view that no one could ever grow tired of, but Yeon-woo’s attention was currently engaged by something else.

[The information cannot be accessed.]

[Appraisal failed.]

[The information cannot be accessed.]

···

[Appraisal succeeded]

[???’s ???ed Pocket Watch]

[???. ??????.]

'It worked.' Yeon-woo nodded after examining his pocket watch with Draconic Eyes. It seemed like the attainment of blacksmithing skills had finally allowed him to view its information. But of course, even if he finally had access to it, there was not much he could read. 'I still have a long way to go.’

But just as the proverb “well begun is half done” said, now that he had it open, the only thing left was to gain more knowledge and skills to enhance Draconic Eyes. He was smiling at his achievement when he heard a voice behind him. "Yo, what are you doing here alone…I mean, excuse me."

He quickly put his pocket watch back into his pocket as Phante and Edora took seats next to him. Since he still wasn’t used to speaking politely, Phante mumbled out the last part of his sentence.

Edora smiled and spoke after a sip of her coffee. "Cain oraboni isn’t like you, Phante oppa. He was probably mapping out a strategy to climb up the Tower. Isn't that right?"

Her use of “oraboni”, the formal term for “older brother”, left Yeon-woo bewildered, as though he had heard something wrong.

"Oraboni?!?" Phante looked disgusted at his sister’s kittenish voice, which he had never heard before, but Edora kept smiling at Yeon-woo and said, "If you’re my older brother’s hyung, that makes you my oraboni. Or is there another term you prefer that I use?"

Phante blew his top at Edora’s response. "Not fair! you should call me ‘oraboni’, too!"

"Why should I?" Edora lightly snorted at Phante, her attitude distinctly different from when she was talking to Yeon-woo. Phante was struck dumb and stared at Edora in bewilderment, but she simply ignored him.

Yeon-woo burst out laughing at these two players he had only come across by chance. He thought they would leave after he fought Phante, but they remained in the Outer District and followed him around. At first, he had just ignored them, but as he spent more time with them, he began to find them adorable, it was just like having a little brother and sister. Whenever they started bickering, he also saw something else: Yeon-woo and his brother. Kahn and Doyle. ‘Siblings are the same no matter where you are.’ Yeon-woo couldn’t help smiling.

"By the way, hyung." Phante’s voice made him focus on the present once more. Phante had a strange expression on his face. "I've been wondering this since this morning.” He glanced down at the street, his eyes turning fierce just as they’d been when they first met in the Tutorial. “Why are you leaving those people tailing you alone? They really tick me off."

The players who were spying on Yeon-woo probably believed that they were being discreet, but they didn’t realize that their presence had been noticed as soon as they appeared. However, Yeon-woo didn't bother chasing them away. Rather, he walked around even more conspicuously to let them know where he was, and Phante couldn’t understand what Yeon-woo was doing. If he were in Yeon-woo’s shoes, he would’ve taken action already.

Yeon-woo also looked at the street below. "Let them be."

"What? But..."

Yeon-woo looked at him.

"All right, all right. Geez, you don’t have to give me that look." Phante griped with a pout.

Yeon-woo ignored him and lifted his coffee cup to his lips. He also found it quite annoying to be followed by the players, and he’d tried to shake them the first time he noticed them. However, they found him again and began following him once more, like pesky mosquitoes. It was better to just let them be. 'I don’t want to cause any disturbances here.' Yeon-woo had no desire to shed blood in the place full of his brother’s memories.

However, Yeon-woo began to notice that people were flocking in front of the cafe. The players spying on Yeon-woo also began to move busily, as if they had found something.

"Huh? What's going on?" Phante also noticed a presence coming up the stairs and turned to the entrance of the terrace. A neatly dressed man appeared with a smile. However, Phante only frowned, displeased that someone was approaching them without permission. Earlier, he’d deliberately spread rumors that the siblings of the One-horned tribe had rented the entire cafe building in an effort to prevent people from entering.

But it was clear that the man didn't care about the rumors at all. He walked past Phante and Edora and stood in front of Yeon-woo before asking politely, “Excuse me sir, are you Cain?"

"Yes, who are you?" Yeon-woo asked.

The man smiled broadly. "Nice to meet you, Cain. I'm Rahaam from the clan, Red Zephyr. I’d like to invite you to join us."

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