Chapter 86 - Flame of Life (2)

After the Albatross’s Nest, Yeon-woo began to sweep through the eleventh floor’s hidden pieces without stopping. His Spirit Familiars slaughtered their way through hundreds of venomous snakes in the Shadow Snake’s Tunnel, supplementing his collection. In the Lesser Dragon’s territory, he had Ka pull out the Lesser Dragon’s heart from its body.

Aside from that, Yeon-woo made a clean sweep of all the valuable materials on the eleventh floor, such as the Blue Crowned Crane’s Crown, Gargoyle’s Wings, Unicorn’s Horns, and so on.

Yeon-woo smiled contentedly as he watched the achievements and rewards piling up at a rapid pace.

However, in other parts of the dream world, players were enraged at the sudden disappearance of materials.

"Goddamn it! This place too?"

"Who the hell did this?"

They also needed materials to complete their trials, but whenever they arrived at a place to acquire the things they needed, there was nothing left for them to take. To make it worse, some locations were completely drained, and recovery seemed almost impossible. Of course, they would eventually recover since it was the dream world, but it would take a considerable amount of time.

The players who urgently needed the materials found the situation extremely frustrating, and they began a manhunt for the culprit. However, Yeon-woo was too stealthy for them to catch, and even those who managed to come across a freshly destroyed location found that the tracks led nowhere, as if the culprit had disappeared into thin air.

'I'm sorry, but I need them just as much as you do.’ Yeon-woo pulled his hood over his eyes as he heard the players rage. He was in the city of Barrack to acquire Skybug’s Wings and hadn’t expected to hear people talking about him. Yeon-woo felt wronged by their accusations. He was just doing what everyone else was. ‘Well, I would have still hogged them all even without the quest but…’ He still felt it was unfair to place the blame on him since other players would have done the same thing. After all, it was finders keepers.

‘Incidentally,' Yeon-woo narrowed his eyes as he looked around the city. ‘The atmosphere here is different from Jeong-woo’s description. It feels really tense, but it can’t be because of me, can it?’

Barrack was famed for its unique architecture and streets full of Mythical Beasts, and it was generally a peaceful and vibrant place with a well-developed hospitality industry and market. Even players from the other floors visited the city to look for items they needed. However, things felt different, and the city that was supposed to pulse with energy seemed rather gloomy.

Along with the players who were angry about Yeon-woo’s exploits, the other players looked grim and almost afraid. Even the shopkeepers and the residents seemed to be on edge.

‘What's going on?’ Yeon-woo could tell that something unusual was going on, but soon, he shook his head, deciding not to get involved in anything troublesome. He was going to leave the city as soon as he got what he needed.

"Out of my way!" A voice suddenly yelled out, parting the crowd. Yeon-woo tried to sneak a glance at the main road to see what was happening. A group of players dressed in black armor quickly ran past, the emblem of a red monster on their chests.

‘That’s the Behemoth Clan’s emblem. What are they doing here?’ Yeon-woo frowned. Behemoth was one of the Cheonghwado’s subordinate clans, and as one of the most promising clans of the middle floors, they were famous for their arrogance. ‘But they don’t usually come down to the lower floors.’

It seemed to have something to do with the heavy atmosphere in the city. 'There’s definitely something going on.’ Since Behemoth was one of the Cheonghwado’s running dogs, any suspicious movements they made indicated that there was a likelihood that the Cheonghwado was plotting something. 'I’ll have to look into this.’ Yeon-woo backed away from the crowd.

Although he didn’t want to raise any trouble with Behemoth, he needed to know what they were up to. He might be able to find out some information about the Cheonghwado. Fortunately, the place he was headed to obtain Skybug’s Wings was also famous for selling information.

'Is it here?' Yeon-woo opened the door to a building with a sign that read “Starlight Pub”. The pub reeked of cigar smoke and the smell of alcohol. Yeon-woo walked through the smoke and found an empty chair next to the counter. The bartender broke into a quizzical smile as he wiped a cup with a towel. “You must be new here. I’ve never had a customer with such a peculiar mask. You know what though, I like it! Can you tell me where you got it?"

Ignoring his words, Yeon-woo threw a bag of gold coins that he had exchanged earlier for monster and beast parts in his backpack. He didn’t touch his karma points because he had to accumulate as much as possible to get better rewards after finishing the trial. Clink!

The bartender's eyes glowed mysteriously.

"I’m here to buy something."

The bartender pocketed the bag with a sly smile. "Well, well, look who’s got a thick wallet. The rich are always welcome here. So, what do you need?"

"Skybug’s Wings. As many as you can get me. You have any?"

"We always have those little items…”

"Only the species from the Valen Forest on the thirty-first floor."

"…in stock, but it’ll cost you a lot. But, I guess this is enough for your request."

Starlight Pub was a popular place to buy and sell useful items and information among experienced players. They had several branches throughout the Tower stocked with a wide variety of goods, and so they were often full of players who needed items or hints to complete their trials.

"Here you go." The bartender returned from the storeroom with a bag full of Skybug’s Wings.

Yeon-woo checked the items with his Draconic Eyes and gave him a nod. They weren’t fake. "Skybug’s Wings is a popular food for Mythical Beasts, so they’re in high demand on the eleventh floor. That’s all we have at the moment. Come back later if you need more."

"Sure. By the way, I have a question."

"Well, you know what to do."

Clink! Yeon-woo threw another bag of gold coins on the counter.

"Hehe, a big spender, eh? OK, what do you want to know?"

"I saw Behemoth walking around outside. Is there something going on around here?"

A strange expression appeared on the bartender’s face. "Hmm? Is it your first time on the eleventh floor?"

"I’ve been away from big cities recently.”

"I see. you really don’t know anything.” The bartender scratched the back of his neck, agonizing over where to begin his explanation. "First of all, do you know about the war between Red Dragon and the Cheonghwado?"

"What?" Yeon-woo eyes widened at the unexpected news, and he accidentally unleashed some of his aura. Whoosh! The bartender and the other players inside the pub squeaked as they felt a sudden chill along their spines. Gripped by fear, some players put their hands on their weapons.

Yeon-woo belatedly realized his mistake and calmed himself. ‘I got careless.’ He’d been too surprised to hear that two of the clans he was targeting for revenge were involved in a war. ‘I knew this would happen, but it’s happened so soon.’

Ever since the mysterious merchant had bought Magic Stones from him, he could tell that clans were gearing up for a war, but he didn’t think it would break out now. Red Dragon held second place in the rankings. It was no exaggeration to say that they were the actual rulers of the Tower if you didn’t consider Allforone. Any time a clan like this moved, big changes would ripple throughout the Tower. "Go on."

The bartender managed to speak after a gulp. "Wh-What?"

"About the war. Tell me the details."

It was only then that the bartender realized Yeon-woo had no intention of harming him. "I-I guess it’s easy to get worked up from such big news." The bartender began to explain in detail that there had been a clash between Bahal and Leonte in the Outer District, and Leonte barely managed to flee with his life. In the process, Red Dragon and the Cheonghwado declared war on each other, and a full-scale war was about to erupt.

‘Bahal and Leonte fought in the Outer District?’ Yeon-woo recalled his meeting with Bahal just before he entered the Tower. He thought of the possibility that Bahal had come down to the Outer District not just to meet him but to chase down Leonte. ‘Things are turning out to be very interesting.’

If the two high rankers representing their clans clashed, it was only a matter of time before war broke out. The bartender’s next words piqued Yeon-woo’s interest even more. "And it is very likely that the war will be taking place on the eleventh floor.”

"This floor? Why?"

The bartender placed the glass he had been wiping on the rack as he replied, "There’s a number of reasons, but I’d say the main one is the abundance of resources here. You see, it’s very peaceful here compared to other floors, and you can find almost all the resources required for war here, especially Mythical Beasts. So, whoever takes this floor won’t have to worry about running out of resources.”

'He has a point.’ Mythical Beasts would be of great help in a war. In particular, the Neidan of the Mythical Beasts would help clans quickly strengthen their players. ‘Of course, it won’t be that effective for rankers, but it would help the lower-level players.’ Yeon-woo burst into laughter. ‘And here I am taking all of their resources for the war. No wonder they’ve been bad-mouthing me so much.’

Yeon-woo stroked his chin. ‘I'll have to finish the trial before more players come to the eleventh floor.’ Now that he understood why everything felt so grim, he had to make the vessel to hold the Flame of Life quickly. Yeon-woo asked a couple more questions before leaving the pub.

*   *   *

The bartender carefully put down the glass he was holding. The man drinking at the opposite end of the counter started grunting. "Goddamn it, what the hell is wrong with that guy? I thought he was going to kill everyone here."

The bartender pointed with his chin at the door. "I need you to investigate him. I think he’s up to something.”

"Huh? You want me to die? Did you look at him? He’ll murder anyone who stands in his way without blinking an eye. He’s a monster, you know? A monster!"

"I know. That’s why I’m making you do it."

"What the f—!" The man was about to say something but cowered at the bartender’s fierce eyes.

He continued with a sullen expression. "What makes you think he’s up to something?"

"Are you blind or something? Didn’t you see it?”

"What was I supposed to see?"

The bartender sneered and his broad mustache curled up slightly as though it were smiling impishly. "That was the Hoarder."

The man's eyes widened. The Hoarder was what they called the nameless novice who had created a buzz through the entire Tower ever since he cleared the Tutorial.

"Now, if you get what I mean, get your ass to work! He may be the culprit that has been hoarding all the hidden pieces on the eleventh floor lately, and you know how expensive that kind of information is.”

*   *   *

Yeon-woo escaped Barrack and went elsewhere. The Spirit Familiars waiting outside the city gathered behind him. He had commanded them to store his items safely before he entered the city, and they’d done a good job.

Yeon-woo sent them back into the Soul Collection and started setting up his plans based on the information he got from the pub. ‘A war between Red Dragon and the Cheonghwado. I have to come up with some sort of excuse to intervene in that war.’

Previous Chapter Next Chapter