'If I can improve the puppet string, I'll be able to control this spirit from a larger distance away.’
Yeon-woo decided to give it more thought later. Aside from the string, the spirit’s physical abilities were better than he’d expected.
Whack! The Spirit Familiar struck a tree with only a few blows before the tree toppled. Yeon-woo noticed the spirit sneaking a glance at him. Even though it didn’t have any expression on its face, Yeon-woo could tell that it was waiting for approval, just like a dog. When Yeon-woo gave him a few nods of acknowledgment, the dark misty spirit seemed to vibrate in gratification.
Yeon-woo couldn’t help smiling. Then, he mused, ‘The conversion only upgraded the spirit’s original ability by a small extent. But it is still able to inflict physical damage, so if I get enough Spirit Familiars, they’ll be useful.’ Yeon-woo remembered the group of Evil Spirits that had attacked Bild together. Individually, the spirits had been weak and insignificant, but as a group, they made even Yeon-woo flinch. 'I have learned a lot about controlling spirits from this experiment, but I’ve still got a long way to go. I can’t assume I know everything from the information I’ve gotten from testing one specimen. Besides, I still don’t know what will happen once I control multiple spirits at the same time. I don’t even know if there’s a limit to how many spirits I can have.'
However, Yeon-woo couldn’t help having big expectations for this new skill. ‘I heard that undead creatures can evolve into higher-tier creatures. Maybe my witch doctor spirit can also evolve into something greater, like a Lich.’ His mind was filled with thoughts of building an army of the undead.
In order to gain more information, Yeon-woo decided to convert more souls into Spirit Familiars. As he scrolled through his Soul Collection, he found two notable souls. "Giant Gnoll and Vulka." They were the souls of the strongest monsters that he could collect in the Beginner Zone. Giant Gnoll was the monster who had guarded the hidden piece of the sixth floor, Laurel Leaves. Vulka was the hidden boss monster he had killed with Phante and Edora on the ninth floor. ‘I collected their souls just in case I found some use for them but I never thought they would come in handy like this.’
Yeon-woo decided to inject his mana. He had to use up all the souls left in his collection, but the results were quite satisfactory.
Unlike the witch doctor spirit, the Giant Gnoll and Vulka roared as soon as they became Spirit Familiars. They were both huge; the Giant Gnoll was nearly three meters tall, and the Vulka looked as though it could crush several players in its arms. However, he could tell them apart because of their individual shapes despite their ghostly appearance.
Yeon-woo began to give each spirit orders, directing them towards the puppet strings which connected them to him.
* * *
Yeon-woo named the witch doctor Boo, after the first syllable of the Korean word for “witch doctor”. He gave the Giant Gnoll the name “Nol” and changed Vulka’s name to “Ka”. He’d decided to name them to make it easier to give them commands, but the spirits jumped up and down in joy at their names.
A message suddenly appeared.
[You have named your Spirit Familiar.]
[The Spirit Familiar will be given an identity. It will boost the morale of your Spirit Familiar.]
[You have unlocked Familiar Affinity.]
[* Spirit Familiar]
[Boo (Witch Doctor): 15/30
Nol (Giant Gnoll): 8/41
Ka (Vulka): 10/55]
[Improve your affinity with the spirits. The higher the affinity, the stronger your bond will become, and they will follow your commands more faithfully.]
Yeon-woo couldn’t help laughing at the strange situation. He’d never expected that the Spirit Familiars would be so pleased by receiving a name, and he’d even unlocked a new stat.
'An identity...’ The spirits he collected did not have identities because they lost their ego once they were captured. Although the Spirit Familiars were of a higher tier than ordinary spirits, they were still unaware of their past lives, and being named made them feel a sense of significance.
Yeon-woo could feel the connection between him and the spirits grow stronger. It wasn’t bad at all, and with his new stat, Yeon-woo was able to perform a few more experiments with the Spirit Familiars. The results supported his theory that the spirits’ abilities correlated to the ones they possessed when they were still alive.
Nol, who had been nimble while he was alive, was faster than the others, and Ka, who had been extremely strong, was slower but physically more powerful. If he used Boo as a starting point for comparison and assigned one point each to its strength, agility, and health, then Nol would have one point for health, three for agility, and two for health. Ka would have five points for strength, one for agility, and three for health. 'I have to collect high-quality souls in order to create good Spirit Familiars.’
After that, he tried making them fight some beasts, and he was thankful that their fighting instincts were still intact. With a simple order to kill the beasts, the three began to fight together with reasonably good teamwork after a shaky start. The longer they fought, the more accustomed they became to fighting together as a group.
'So they possess intelligence.’ It was the biggest difference between Spirit Familiars and normal spirits. Yeon-woo continued to observe the actions of the spirits with amusement. By the end of the day, he managed to fill up his Soul Collection.
[Number of collected souls: 500]
‘Its capacity has expanded by more than three times.’
The limit used to be 150 souls. Yeon-woo tried to use up all the souls again and create as many Spirit Familiars as possible to see how many he could create from 500 souls, as well as test how many familiars he could control. In the end, he managed to create seven more Spirit Familiars, but it seemed like his limit was ten.
‘It’s much less than I thought.’ Yeon-woo frowned slightly as he looked at the new spirits standing next to the original three. The souls bound inside the bracelet, were useless except for converting into dark energy unless they were made into Spirit Familiars. Since he’d created the new ones in a hurry, they were practically useless.
Yeon-woo looked at the Despair of the Black King as he ran his hand over the chain wrapped around his arm.
[* Soul Collector]
[Fixed chance of reaping the soul of the killed target and adding it to the collection. The collected souls lose their memory and become corrupted, left only with deep resentment. The capacity of the collection will increase in proportion to the user’s proficiency.]
‘The capacity will increase along with my proficiency. I guess I have to pin my hopes on this.’ The abilities of the Black Bracelet seemed impressive, but considering it was an artifact that belonged to a previous Lord, they didn't actually accomplish much.
The other artifact in his possession left by another Lord—Bathory’s Vampiric Sword—boasted an overpowering option that could steal an opponent's stats and even some skills. In contrast, the Despair of the Black King’s options seemed rather inadequate. Perhaps it was because he lacked proficiency, or perhaps the sealed abilities were the truly impressive ones. It was possible that the bracelet contained secrets he’d yet to uncover.
‘Since you destroyed Astrape, I need you to earn your keep.’ As he looked at his bracelet with furrowed brows, Yeon-woo suddenly came up with an idea. 'Hold on. If I want to learn more about this artifact, maybe I can ask Edora for help.’ Edora had a skill very similar to Yeon-woo’s Draconic Eyes, Insight. Her eyes might be able to see something he couldn't.
Yeon-woo decided to put off the questions he had about the artifact until Edora arrived at the eleventh floor. Besides, he had acquired another godly artifact to replace Astrape.
『You have something very interesting with you, human.』
As Yeon-woo was about to pull out the nine-layered shield on his back, he heard the Phoenix’s voice ringing in his head. He looked around, wondering where she was, but he couldn’t find her at all. ‘Is she watching with some kind of skill?’ It was clear that she was still at her nest. "I thought you were going to rest."
『Yes I was. My children were shaking like they would break out of their shells at any moment, but they have calmed down. I still do not know when they will hatch, so I have been watching you to keep myself awake. Besides, the artifact you have has piqued my interest.』
Yeon-woo realized that since the Phoenix was a Legendary Beast, it could recognize a godly item like Aegis. But just as he was about to reach for it once more, he paused at the Phoenix’s next remark.
『Can you tell me about the bracelet you are wearing? What is it?』
* * *
A man limped through the dense forest, covered in serious burns. Half of his face had melted, leaving him with a repulsive appearance, but even though he looked half-dead, his eyes blazed with fury. It was Leonte. He had managed to escape from Bahal’s attack and was now running for his life. He had nothing left after Bahal and Flame Beast took away the portal and the players from the Cheonghwado. ‘If only I had the stone. If only I had that heart, I wouldn't have suffered this humiliation.’
Leonte ground his teeth in resentment as he thought of Bahal and the unknown player who had stolen his stone. “You will pay for what you did, and I will make sure you do, no matter what it costs!"
* * *
The news about the clash between Red Dragon and the Cheonghwado rocked the entire Tower, centering on how Bahal and Flame Beast had ambushed Leonte, and how Leonte had managed to escape. Red Dragon issued a declaration of war and put notices up on boards at the cities of each floor.
Red Dragon and the Cheonghwado were the two biggest clans in the Tower, and their war would cause a huge upheaval. Clans, rankers, and players acted immediately to get an accurate picture of the situation as they prepared for the war. The One-horned tribe was no exception.
"That's the only thing I've been hearing about since we got here. What the hell happened while we were gone?" Phante and Edora plodded along a street as people busily walked past them. Phante was feeling very annoyed. After finishing the trial on the tenth floor, he thought he could finally continue his journey with Yeon-woo on the eleventh floor, but he’d had to put a stop to his plans.
While he was talking to the Guardian Yvlke, the Red Crow had suddenly descended from the sky and sat quietly in front of him. The Red Crow was a Mythical Beast used as a messenger by their tribe because of its ability to travel between floors without restrictions. The message it brought was simple: “Return as soon as you receive this message.”
Since there weren’t any details enclosed, Phante didn’t know why his father was calling them home. However, he knew it had to be urgent if his father sent the Red Crow, and so he met up with Edora quickly and left the Tower.
As soon as they arrived at the Outer District, they heard the news and immediately understood why their father had summoned them. It wasn’t long before they reached an ordinary-looking farming village. However, the village’s atmosphere was different from those of other similar places in the Tower.
As soon as Phante and Edora set foot at the entrance of the village, they were heartily greeted by the farmers who were plowing the fields.
"Phante and Edora? What are you two doing here?"
"I heard the Tower’s gotten pretty noisy these days. They must be here because of that. My lady! How's the search for a husband going?”
The villagers appeared one by one as the news of Phante and Edora’s return, and soon, the entrance grew quite noisy. The two were also enjoying their conversations with the villagers that they hadn’t seen in a while. Although Phante and Edora were members of the royal family, no one spoke to them formally or deferentially at all.
"Oh, Phante! Edora! You’re here!" A middle-aged man wearing a straw hat strode out of the village. He was a hefty man who was even bigger than Phante, and with the pickaxe slung over his shoulder, he looked just like a farmer.
Edora raised her eyebrows, irritated by his expression. "I thought it was an urgent matter but I guess not if someone seems to have time to waste on farming."
"A man has to eat, you know. No matter how busy we are, we need to take a break once in a while. Why are you so surly today? Are you on your…?”
"One more word and I’ll have to draw my sword.”
The man's eyes grew round at Edora's cold attitude. Then he looked at Phante as if asking what was wrong with her. Phante chuckled. "I know why she’s acting like this. She was so excited to go on a journey with her future husband, but…eek!"
"Shut the fuck up!" Edora’s sudden kick sent Phante flying off. He landed a great distance away and rolled on the ground. Unfortunately, the middle-aged man and the other villagers had already heard his words.
"What? A future husband?"
"Oh, my lady! At last!"
"Phew! So we’re gonna celebrate with noodles soon? Should we throw a party?"
Edora covered her face with her hands at the noisy chatter. Her tribe’s nosiness was one of the reasons she had been reluctant to return. The middle-aged man put his arm over his daughter's shoulders and smiled impishly. "Hehehe. So, who is this fantastic boy who has stolen my daughter’s heart? I'm dying to know who he is!"
"Put your arms down."
"Which race does he belong to? Is he a demi-human like us? Or is he a human? Where is he and what’s he doing now?" The middle-aged man teased her without a care.
Edora tried to ignore his words as she rubbed her aching head. However, her hands drifted to Shinmado, and at the sight, the middle-aged man finally fell back. "All right, all right. Gee, with that cold attitude, I don’t even know whom you take after. Can’t I even make a joke in front of you?"
Edora stared daggers at her father, but his broad smile still didn’t leave his face. After having a good laugh with the villagers, the man then clapped his hands to shift the atmosphere. "OK, that's enough jokes." His expression grew serious, and his playful eyes took on a grave light. Despite his shabby clothing, he exuded dignity. “I couldn’t write why I wanted you to return on the message, but you probably noticed what happened in the Tower as you made your way here, right?"Previous Chapter Next Chapter