Phante’s jaw dropped to the ground as he watched clouds of dust soar up from the shattered cliff and rocks fall like snow. It was the same ability he had seen in the Tutorial, but this time, it had grown much stronger. ‘I thought he just spent his time hammering in that smithy. Was he training in secret?’
Edora was nodding with a broad smile on her face, as if everything had gone according to her expectations. However, the players on the Blue Team trembled in fear. They had never expected to meet a player with such destructive power on the first floor. In the previous round, Phante’s strength had been overwhelming enough to beat down two teams by himself, but Yeon-woo's power was far beyond that. The most frightened ones of all were the players on the Red Team, who had already begun crossing the canyon on the three bridges.
Phante’s presence on the Blue Team had convinced them to attack right away, since whoever acted first usually earned victory in battles like this. Their plan had been to quickly cross all three bridges while the Blue Team struggled with Phante and then destroy the Blue Team’s crystals as soon as possible.
The groups on each bridge also had different missions along with their main goal. One group was in charge of keeping Phante busy, another was in charge of dealing with the rest of the Blue Team, and the last one was responsible for searching for the blue crystals.
But their missions had ended in failure before they could even cross to the other side. Blades of wind tore apart the three bridges, and the players on them fell into the canyon, their screams filling the air. Several skills burst out from the thick fog in the chasm as players activated artifacts or flying abilities. Unfortunately, not all novices had such high-tier skills, and half of the Red Team was decimated.
‘Their escape route is now cut off.’ As usual, Yeon-woo was indifferent to those who had no connections with him. They were in a world where the survival of the fittest was the only thing that mattered. Anyone who planned to kill another person had to expect the same thing to happen to them.
All the bridges connecting the two sides of the canyon were now gone, and with the Red Team stuck on their side, it was time for him to rampage. Before the pieces of the bridges had even disappeared, Yeon-woo drew mana from his Magic Circuit around his feet and jumped into the canyon using Shunpo.
Swish! Yeon-woo landed on a wooden board and jumped off it as though it were a step floating in midair. He used the rest of the falling pieces of the bridge in the same way, as though they were stepping stones, and reached the other side of the canyon.
"What the fuck?"
"How’s this possible?"
The Red Team were still busy trying to understand what was happening, and Yeon-woo was already almost upon them before they noticed a strong presence arriving. The players hurriedly drew their weapons and got ready to cast their skills. They had to buy some time for their teammates to hide the crystals.
However, their hostility only succeeded in helping Vigrid unleash an even stronger demonic energy. Just before he landed on the Red Team’s side, Yeon-woo swung Vigrid horizontally, and a whirlwind mixed with strong demonic energy exploded out and shot directly towards the players, swallowing them up. Boom!
The players at the front bore the brunt of the attack and were torn to pieces. Those in the back didn’t fare that well either, and they all fell like dominoes, their skills interrupted and leaving only glimmering effects in the air.
As soon as Yeon-woo landed on the cliff, he swung his sword once more, this time vertically. Whomp! Whomp!
The demonic energy unleashed from Vigrid was channeled through a single point, creating a giant pillar of light that erased everything in front of Yeon-woo until there was only a clear passage to the forest ahead of him. The players he had sensed earlier were running deep into the forest to hide the red crystals.
Yeon-woo gently shook his right hand, and the Black Bracelet glowed eerily. The souls of the dead players were bound into the bracelet and immediately transformed into dark elemental energy for Black Blade. Yeon-woo added Flame Infusion.
Boom! The players running in the woods were thrown to the ground by the sudden explosion. The more skilled ones ended up with broken ribs, but the others were killed instantly. Yeon-woo quickly ran through the path that he’d cleared, infusing his armor with mana.
The lines all over the armor opened up, revealing dozens of eyeballs. Though the armor looked grotesque, it didn’t bother Yeon-woo one bit, and he scanned the whole forest with his enhanced senses. Like a dog guided by its sense of smell, all he had to do was to look for the unique mana that the crystals possessed.
No one could stand in his way. Or rather, there was no one left to stand in his way since the surviving players had been infected by Vigrid on top of their injuries. A hundred players had failed to stop a single individual.
As they watched the situation unfold on the other side of the canyon, the Blue Team players were tremendously shocked. Those who had participated in the same round of the Tutorial as Yeon-woo could only gulp at the sight, and those who were witnessing the power of the Hoarder for the first time despaired at the hopelessly huge gap between them.
Yeon-woo was unmoved by their reactions. This was only the Beginner Zone, and regardless of how difficult the trial was, it was still easy for a person like Yeon-woo, who sat at the top of the Tutorial rankings. All he cared about was obtaining Hera’s Key.
Yeon-woo grabbed all the crystals with one hand. Five blue crystals and five red crystals. Although some of them were scratched, they were all in one piece.
Whoosh! With a bright light, the crystals melted in his hand, merging into one single ball of light that left behind a translucent key that glittered in his hand as though it were made of diamonds.
[You have acquired Hera’s Key.]
[Classification: Miscellaneous][Rank: C+]
[Description: A key used to open the treasury of Hera, the goddess of marriage. Nothing is known about its use.]
Yeon-woo clenched his fists after confirming his acquisition of the second key, and a message appeared in the sky.
[The trial has ended.]
Only half an hour had passed since the start of the trial. It was the fastest that the trial of the first floor had been completed in the Tower’s history.
* * *
[You have made an achievement that is not easily accomplished. Additional karma will be provided.]
[You have acquired 5,000 karma.]
[You have acquired 3,000 additional karma.]
[Your health and mana will be restored]
[All status effects will be removed]
[All remaining players will be teleported to the waiting area. Beware of impact.]
[Calculating total karma attained in this round...]
[Karma ranking of current round]
[1. Unknown (50,000 Points)
[You have set a new record on this floor. Will you register your name in the Hall of Fame?]
[You have refused to register your name.]
[Your record has been deeply engraved in the Tower. You can register your name whenever you wish.]
"That was amazing. Even though it’s only the first floor, I’ve never seen anyone clear the trial this fast. Indeed, you are the Hoarder. You’ve just set a new record." After all the players reached the waiting area, Aaron appeared once more and expressed his astonishment. It had been only a few minutes ago that he made a bet with Yvlke, and he never expected the outcome to happen so quickly.
The fact that he lost the bet worried him a little, but he was more excited to see what else this player had to offer. He was now sure that Yeon-woo’s accomplishments in the Tutorial weren’t just out of sheer luck. 'He even knows about the hidden pieces.’ It was clear to Aaron that Yeon-woo was trying to complete the keys to Olympus’ Treasury. ‘Maybe I should make a bet with Yvlke again if there’s another chance.’ He said, "And now, I will give you the rewards for the—"
"Wait." Yeon-woo interrupted Aaron in mid-sentence.
"What's the matter?"
"I'd like to receive my rewards after I clear the whole Beginner Zone."
Aaron's eyes widened slightly, but he chuckled as if he’d been expecting this from Yeon-woo. This player even knew that his rewards would be better if he postponed accepting them. 'If he can keep on breaking records up to the tenth floor, I wonder what kind of rewards he will get.’
Aaron imagined bedlam breaking loose in the Guardians’ chambers. In fact, the entire Tower would be in an uproar. He couldn’t imagine what kind of crazy plans Yeon-woo had, and he couldn’t help smiling at the thought. He had an understanding now of Yvlke’s interest in this guy. "Of course, that is acceptable.” Aaron nodded as he put his hand back down. “Well, then. It’s time to say goodbye.”
He bowed gracefully to the players as a curtain of light fell over the entire area.
[The trial has ended. Will you continue to the next floor?]
None of the Blue Team players were happy to see this message since no one had managed to acquire any karma except for Yeon-woo. Usually, the winning team would have received some items and karma that they could trade for the things they needed for the next floor. But in this round, Yeon-woo had hoarded all the karma by himself.
Even though the Blue Team had won, none of the players aside from Yeon-woo had a hand in their victory. Since the Tower only rewarded players for their achievements, they got nothing. Moving to the next floor would only mean facing a miserable future.
In the end, most of the players gave up going to the next floor and chose to repeat the trial. One by one, the players disappeared into red portals, leaving Yeon-woo, Phante, Edora, and Aaron behind.
"What about you? Would you like to go up?" Aaron asked with a smile on his face.
Yeon-woo nodded. Phante pondered for a while and also said yes with a snort. Edora smiled gently.
"Very well. Here’s the portal to the next floor." A portal opened in front of each person, glowing with a blue hue. The three entered the portals without any hesitation. There were still nine floors left to clear.
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