Thanks to the message, Yeon-woo was sure that he was on the right track. He had originally thought that Magic Circuit’s only use was to pump mana, and he’d never imagined that it would have another use. Nor did he ever think he’d figure out one of these uses on his way to the One-horned tribe’s village.
Yeon-woo took a closer look at the Jinbup to see if he could get more information from it. He was done figuring out its basic components, and the next step was to see how they worked together to activate it. 'I should be able to go through this maze by myself.'
As he looked at Yanu’s footprints, Yeon-woo noticed that they followed a specific pattern. To test his theory, Yeon-woo began guessing where Yanu’s next footprint would appear. ‘Forty-five degrees to the left.’ It was a place where lots of imperfections were concentrated, and indeed,
Yanu’s footprint appeared diagonally in front of the previous one.
'Next one is sixteen degrees to the right.’ The next footprint also appeared right where Yeon-woo thought it would. 'And…’ Yeon-woo continued guessing correctly each time until he was almost at the end of the maze. However, at that point, for the first time, Yanu’s footprint appeared in a different location from Yeon-woo’s prediction. 'Hmm…that’s the long way around. Maybe he doesn’t know this other path. If so…’
To the left, Yeon-woo noticed a straight path leading to the edge of the fog. ‘That is where the Jinbup ends.’ Instead of following Yanu, Yeon-woo decided to follow this path instead.
"Huh? W-wait!" Yanu heard Yeon-woo’s steps turn away from the path, and he quickly looked back to tell him to stop, but it was already too late. However, despite Yanu’s worry, Yeon-woo managed to reach the end of the foggy area.
Whoosh! As the view opened up, Yeon-woo saw a village huddling below a hill. A voice rang in his head.
『Oh my! An outsider has passed through Hoho’unmujin without the help of our tribe. I don’t think I’ve seen you before. Who are you?』 The voice was gravelly and hoarse, as though an old woman were speaking. 『Oh, you must be the one Edora was talking about! Hoho, you really are full of surprises. I can see why she bragged so much about you.』 There was a hint of laughter in her voice. 『You seem curious about me. Don’t worry, we’ll be meeting soon enough. Bye, dearie.』
The voice disappeared, leaving Yeon-woo to wonder who it belonged to. However, his thoughts were interrupted by Yanu’s urgent voice behind him. “Ahhh! What did you do? Why didn’t you follow me?” Yanu came running with his face as pale as a ghost’s. "You have no idea how lucky you are! You could have gotten yourself trapped!”
"I just took a shortcut."
"What?" A blank expression appeared on Yanu’s face as if he didn’t understand what Yeon-woo was saying.
"I noticed you were taking the long way around, so I just took a shortcut that I happened to find."
Yanu barely managed to speak with his mouth agape. “There’s a shortcut?”
* * *
Hoho’unmujin was a Jinbup that had protected the One-horned tribe's village from the outside world for a long time, and it was not something an outsider could comprehend after just a few minutes. Yanu came to realize why Yeon-woo was considered a monster. Although he’d felt it strongly when Yeon-woo had appeared with the three-meter-tall egg, Yanu once more thought that he was not like a normal human at all.
Yeon-woo ignored Yanu’s stare and entered the village, looking around. ‘It looks like an ordinary rural village. I thought it would be different somehow.’ Yeon-woo was a bit surprised. He’d imagined that the members of the strongest race would all be training in martial arts at the village square. Instead, he saw several broad patches of fields spreading on one side of the road, and people in straw hats tended to the crops. On the other side of the road, there was a hill crammed with wooden huts, and he could see a woman carrying a basket of food on her head, and some kids running around the alleys.
It was just a peaceful village, and the only thing that seemed unique about it was that every inhabitant had a horn growing out of the side of their head, and they were all dressed in the same type of baggy outfits that Phante and Edora wore.
Their clothes looked so oversized that Yeon-woo began to wonder if they were uncomfortable. ‘Or is it the opposite?' Yeon-woo suddenly realized that the villagers were turning to stare at him one by one. It was normal to see many different kinds of attire in the Tower, but his black mask and armor was drawing the villagers’ attention.
"Huh? Isn't that a human?"
"I think he’s a player. Were we supposed to have a visitor today? Has anyone heard of it?”
"What’s up with that mask? Ah! Didn’t Yanu run an errand for our princess today?”
"Oh, then he must be Edora’s...?"
"Yeah, I think that’s him."
The villagers suddenly began to look at Yeon-woo with sparkling eyes, the same expression that Yanu had on his face when he first laid eyes on Yeon-woo.
‘How do these people know who I am?' Yeon-woo couldn’t understand why they were looking at a stranger like him in that way. As he walked deeper into the village, more and more people gathered around from every corner to look at him.
“There he is.”
"Do you think he’s strong?"
"I bet he is. Edora-nim said so.”
"Look at his eyes. He gives a very strong impression.”
“And quite a good physique too. I can tell his muscles are well-formed."
Yeon-woo frowned slightly at all the eyes focused on him. He felt like a monkey in a zoo. Some of the villagers were assessing his appearance, and some seemed to be distinctly eager to spar with him. However, what really caught the villagers’ attention was the three-meter-tall egg following behind Yeon-woo.
"What is that thing behind him?"
"It looks like the egg of an animal. I think it’s a Mythical Beast’s egg.”
"That's impossible. I've never heard of a beast egg that big."
Even to the eyes of the members of the One-horned tribe, a race with a rich history, Yeon-woo’s egg was truly a mystery among mysteries.
‘Wait a second, I thought the village was going through serious trouble right now. How come none of them look worried?’ By the time Yeon-woo thought of this, he had finally reached the village center and found a house that looked just like the other ones, although it was bigger. A familiar person came running to him from outside the house.
"Oraboni!" It was Edora. She seemed to have been waiting outside for Yeon-woo’s arrival. Perhaps Yanu had managed to send her a message.
Yeon-woo’s stiff expression softened as the familiar face grew closer. "How have you been?"
"Good! But I was worried you’d be concerned about our disappearance. We thought we’d be able to go back sooner."
"I heard you had a situation. I understand." Yeon-woo patted Edora on the shoulder. His warm attitude surprised Edora, but she smiled bashfully.
"Wow! I’ve never seen our ice princess smiling that brightly.”
"Well, it looks like what Phante-nim said is true, right?”
"For sure! There’s gonna be a lot of young men crying over this news. Hahaha!"
Edora glared at the villagers, who turned away but didn’t stop giggling and gossiping. Yeon-woo was starting to get an understanding of the One-horned tribe’s culture. Although people were divided into classes, there was no discrimination of any sort among them, and everyone seemed happy and free-spirited. 'What’s more, these people are all experts.'
Although they were dressed like normal farmers, each person was a great warrior, and Yeon-woo was surprised at how well they hid their power. It meant that they were continually controlling their mana to prevent their power from flowing out.
‘It’s as if they each have a Jinbup inside themselves...’ Yeon-woo’s eyes glowed at the discovery as he realized that his theories were already being applied by the One-horned tribe.
"Well, well. Look who’s here. You must be the person my son and daughter traveled with." As Yeon-woo and Edora conversed, a middle-aged man appeared from the crowd with a group of people, including Phante, a few elders, and men who looked like bodyguards.
However, even though he was surrounded by so many people, Yeon-woo could only see the middle-aged man. 'He’s huge.’ His clothes were covered in dirt, as though he’d just finished working in the fields, and even though he seemed like an affable farmer, Yeon-woo thought, ‘And he’s strong.’
Yeon-woo felt pressure weighing down his shoulders when he met the middle-aged man’s eyes. It was a similar feeling to when he had first met Bahal. ‘But there’s an important difference.’ Bahal gave the impression that he was standing above everything, while the middle-aged man gave the impression of vastness, as though he were the only existence around. If Bahal was a mountain, the middle-aged man was the sky.
People could step on a mountain, but the sky always remained up there no matter how high people went. In addition, there was something hidden deep in the eyes of the middle-aged man that was like a wild and dreadful beast. It was dormant for the moment, but if it broke out…Yeon-woo’s Magic Circuit started to spin in order to protect him. ‘This is the Martial King.’
The chief and king of the One-horned tribe had opened the path to a golden age for the One-horned tribe. He was also known as one of the Nine Kings, the strongest of all players.
I would describe the Martial King as a wolf in sheep's clothing. He appears to live a leisurely life but is always looking for a chance to go on a rampage. Although I never got to meet him, even from afar, I could tell that he was one of the strongest players I’ve ever seen.
That got me thinking: if he was the one who led the One-horned tribe, which is already strong, to a golden age, how great a player is he?
As Yeon-woo recalled the passage in the diary, the Martial King suddenly smiled, making Yeon-woo flinch involuntarily. He had the sensation that the dormant beast inside the Martial King had just opened its eyes to look at him, and a terrible chill ran down his spine. "Oh, you saw that?"
Yeon-woo couldn’t speak.
"You are really something! Well, I guess you must be since you traversed our Jinbup by yourself." The Martial King rubbed his chin and looked Yeon-woo over with interest.
"What did he see, Father?” Phante asked, still standing next to his father.
"Something that a greenhorn like you will never be able to see even in a million years.”
"Why do you always have to be so pretentious?” Phante yelled with a scowl. Although his father was a great figure, whenever he acted superior, he could be a real jerk.
However, the Martial King only snorted at his son. "What else can I say when it’s 100 percent true?"
"Gosh, I’m gonna have to get stronger so I can make him shut up. Just you wait, Father, I’m gonna succeed you when I grow strong enough.”
"Yeah, yeah. Tell me when you do.”
"Ugh. This big old bully…!"
As Phante struggled with his rage, the Martial King turned to look at Yeon-woo again. "As I was saying..." Yeon-woo suddenly felt nervous at the Martial King’s grave expression. Although his voice was still friendly, the atmosphere had suddenly become heavy and serious.
Phante, the elders, the bodyguards, and all the other people standing next to him began to sweat in anxiety as the dignified royal aura that the Martial King emitted swept over the area.
Yeon-woo began to ask himself if he had made any mistakes. ‘Maybe I wasn’t supposed to see the beast inside him. Or is it because I traversed the Jinbup by myself?' Yeon-woo focused all of his attention on the Martial King’s mouth as he began to speak. One corner of the Martial King’s lips slowly curled up as he growled out, “When are you going to take my daughter?"Previous Chapter Next Chapter