Yeon-woo’s forehead creased. ‘Why is she doing this?’ He knew that the Phoenix was somewhat arrogant, but she wasn’t usually hostile to players. Even when players trespassed on her territory, she often just observed them. But for some reason, the Phoenix was acting out of the ordinary. Yeon-woo tried to reassure her first. "I've come here for the Flame of Life. Will you kindly grant me your quest?"
『Begone, you filthy human! I have nothing to share with your kind.』
Even though he was immediately rejected, Yeon-woo tried to persuade her several more times. However, he was rejected each time. However, he had the strange feeling that the Phoenix had no intention of hurting him. ‘For some reason, she reminds me of a cowering hedgehog.’
Hedgehogs were cowardly by nature, and when they faced a predator, they showed their pointy spines to hide their fear. Although it was a little odd to compare a Legendary Beast to a tiny animal like a hedgehog, the Phoenix seemed just like one to him. Even though she could kill him as easily as lifting a finger, her threats seemed hollow.
‘Something must have happened to her. But what could it be?’ Yeon-woo had a sudden realization. It had to be the vulnerability that humans, animals, and beasts all had in common, a time when they all became hypersensitive and cautious.
As Yeon-woo climbed up the rock wall, the Phoenix threatened Yeon-woo even more furiously, but he didn’t stop until he arrived at the mouth of the cave. "Excuse me."
『Human! How dare you set foot inside my nest!』
He could see a pair of huge yellow objects gleaming in the depths of the cave. They were the Phoenix’s eyes glaring at him, full of anger at his unwelcome presence. However, she made no move to expel him from her nest, and from her hesitant attitude, Yeon-woo became even more sure about what had happened.
He quickly cast Draconic Eyes and examined the interior of the cave. The hulking red mass of the Phoenix was curled up in the darkness among faint flames. She was so large that Yeon-woo was sure that he looked like an ant to her.
‘If she’s already this big while crouching, how much bigger will she look when she spreads her wings?’ As Yeon-woo examined the majestic bird, he noticed something under her belly: two eggs. ‘I knew it.’ His guess was right. "You have eggs.”
『That is none of your business. Now, away with you. I have no time for you.』 The Phoenix continued to snarl at Yeon-woo, but he could sense a hint of uneasiness mixed into the thought she transferred. She also grew extremely vigilant. Although she was restraining herself for fear of damaging the eggs, he could see the flames around her body rippling as if waiting to burn him.
‘She probably can’t move from her spot right now. I can feel that the eggs are hatching soon.’ He could understand why the Phoenix was so sensitive. He looked into her eyes and asked, “Have you lost an egg?"
There was no response. After a momentary silence, he said, "I’m right, aren’t I?”
『So? Have you come to mock me? Please, just get out of my nest.』
The eggs of Legendary Beasts were sold at high prices among players, and so quite a few clans and players tried to steal them despite the risk to their lives. Yeon-woo felt a little sorry for the Phoenix. He knew about the love parents had for their children better than anyone else. The Phoenix reminded him of his mother, who had spent her last days worrying about her lost son and had called his name with her dying breath. It made Yeon-woo want to help the Phoenix. "If I can bring your egg back…”
"Will you grant me your quest?" It was also an opportunity for him.
The man's offer perplexed the Phoenix, and she narrowed her eyes to read Yeon-woo’s intentions and see if he was hiding anything. Although she couldn’t read a human’s thoughts perfectly, she could tell that Yeon-woo was telling the truth. He had no ulterior motives. 『Do as you please.』
The Phoenix closed her eyes and put her head back, giving tacit permission. At that moment, there was a light sound. Ding!
[Sudden Quest / Phoenix's Egg]
[Description: One of the eggs of the ruler of the southern forest, the Phoenix, was stolen while she was away looking for food for her soon-to-hatch babies. Find the Phoenix’s lost egg and bring it back to her. The Phoenix will never forget your kindness.]
[Time limit: Before the egg hatches.]
1. The Phoenix's favor
2. Qualification for the quest 'Flame of Life']
* * *
'Now, how do I catch those thieves?’ Yeon-woo began to organize his thoughts as he climbed down the rock wall. He’d originally planned to set up camp in a suitable location near the Phoenix’s nest and check his rewards. He would have to set that aside for later. 'I hope I can do this quickly.’ There was not much time left before the egg hatched. He had to hurry and catch the thieves as soon as possible. 'The description doesn’t say exactly how much time is left, but it can’t be more than twenty-four hours.’
Fortunately, the thieves had left traces of their presence everywhere near the cave. It seemed that they had been too busy hiding from the Phoenix that they’d forgotten to remove their tracks. Yeon-woo was experienced at tracking thanks to his time in Africa, when he’d had to hunt down fleeing guerrillas. After checking the tracks, Yeon-woo set out in search of the egg.
* * *
“Hahaha! What a piece of cake!"
"Heehee, who would have guessed that the Phoenix would leave just as we arrived?”
Vian and Lahm laughed loudly as they exited the forest, carrying an egg that was as big as a torso. It was the Phoenix’s stolen egg, a piece of good fortune that would make them rich. Neither of them had been expecting too much when they entered the Phoenix's territory since she was known for her vigilance. Although they considered themselves two of the best treasure hunters, it was practically impossible to steal a Phoenix egg, but as luck would have it, they were able to sneak into the Phoenix’s nest and steal one while she was away.
Even though they’d only managed to take one egg thanks to her sudden return, it was still a huge gain for them.
"You know what? I think we should ask for a higher price when we get there. I mean, they won’t be able to get this egg anywhere else. If they want it, they’ll have to pay whatever price we ask, right?”
"Actually, there’s a better way."
"A better way?"
"Yup. We could take it for ourselves."
Shocked by Lahm’s sudden remark, Vian opened his eyes wide. "Hold on! What if we get caught?”
"We’ll have to go into hiding. Don’t worry about getting caught, and look at the benefits. We have a Phoenix egg, man! If we can stay hidden until it grows into an adult, no one can do anything to us then!”
Vian’s eyes brimmed with greed. He’d been too busy stealing the egg to think about his options, but Lahm had a point. The players who had commissioned them to steal the egg were famous for being strong and merciless. Above all, they abhorred those who injured their pride. But then, so what?
If they kept the egg, they would become one of the few owners of a Phoenix. Would their clients even be able to stand up against them? In fact, they’d even have to grovel at their feet. He would even have the opportunity to become a real ranker, something which he had only dreamed about. 'If that happens…'
But even as Vian was already planning his rosy future, a sudden feeling of anxiety gripped him.
'Wait a minute. Which one of us will be the owner of Phoenix?’ However, his anxiety was swallowed up by his greed. ‘Does it have to be the two of us?’ Vian glanced discreetly at Lahm.
Lahm was a useful partner, and they’d been working together for three years. But like most treasure hunters, they’d only banded together out of necessity, and it wasn’t like there was any deep loyalty or friendship between them. ‘Since that’s the case…’
The greed that filled Vian’s eyes was quickly replaced with murderous intent, but when Lahm suddenly turned his head to grin at him, Vian put on a fake smile. “What is it?”
"I think you're thinking the same thing I am."
"Wha…urk!" Vian suddenly coughed up a mouthful of blood. His vision started to spin, and his body grew heavy as he collapsed to the ground, still trying to hold the egg in his arms. When he looked up, he saw Lahm staring down at him with a cold smile.
"Well, you know how things are in our field of work, right? So please, don’t think too badly of me. If I hadn't done it to you, you'd have done it to me, isn’t that right?"
"You remember the bottle of water I gave you a while ago? I put some Mandrake juice in it, but you didn’t even notice. I was surprised that it worked since you never trust me whenever I give you something.”
Vian remembered drinking water without even a single suspicion in his mind because he had been thirsty from running so hard. "Damn...it…" Those were his final words.
Lahm grinned as he checked to make sure that Vian was dead. "A Phoenix's egg. Damn, this is a jackpot. I’ve been waiting so long for this to happen." Lahm began wondering where to hide with the egg. If the client ever discovered that he’d run off with the egg, they would search everywhere, and so he had to choose a secure place where he could lie low for at least three years. After that, the Phoenix would be an adult, and he would have the life of a ranker waiting for him.
He felt the egg wriggling in his arms, but he ignored it and began to walk away from the forest—except suddenly, his body was no longer listening to him. He felt something in the center of his chest, and when he looked down, he found a blade protruding from his chest. "What just happened...?" Lahm slowly fell forward without even finishing his sentence.
Yeon-woo quickly circled him, carefully taking the egg from his arms. "Idiots." He clucked his tongue as he looked at the two corpses. He’d already tracked them down even before they left the forest, but he was worried that they might drop the egg if he ambushed them. Instead, he’d followed them, waiting for the right moment to strike. When the two started fighting for the eggs, Yeon-woo hadn’t missed the opportunity.
Yeon-woo cast Flame Infusion and burned the bodies to ashes. 'If only every quest was this easy.’ It really was too easy.
* * *
『Ah! My child! Thank goodness, you’re all right!』
[Sudden quest (Phoenix’s Egg) completed.]
Yeon-woo smiled faintly as he watched the Phoenix shedding tears of joy. 'I’m glad it worked out.’ He suddenly had a burning desire to see his mom once again.Previous Chapter Next Chapter