In no time, the empty tournament hall was filled with people who were eager to see the fight between Jang, the likely heir to the throne, and the human that Phante and Edora favored.
The Martial King and the elders entered the hall and seated themselves next to the stage. Edora was silent as she entered. Her head drooped and her face was red as her lips said quietly said over and over, “‘Oppa’?”
Watching his sister act like a broken machine, Phante clucked his tongue, muttering, ‘This is seriously an illness. A severe one, too.’ He shifted his gaze towards the stage.
Jang stood on one side, running his hand along his sword. His cold eyes were fixed on the other side of the stage where Yeon-woo stood. ‘I’ll make him regret showing up.’ Although Yeon-woo might be famous in the lower floors of the Tower, Jang found it laughable that he’d even dare fight with him. ‘I guess that’s to be expected from someone who travels with mongrels.’
Jang felt great contempt for Phante and Edora and saw them as the children of a whore who’d stolen his father from his mother. There was nothing as filthy as dirty-blooded mutts, and he could already tell the ability of the human who got along with such despicable creatures.
The human hadn’t even done anything ever since he entered the stage. He wasn’t checking his equipment or even warming up. All he did was stare at Jang menacingly, and Jang snorted at this attempt to intimidate him.
"As I said earlier, this is no only a test. Killing is not allowed. If either of you kills the other, the punishment will be severe. Understand?" The Martial King looked from one side of the stage to another with his usual silly smile. After the two nodded in confirmation, the Martial King exclaimed, “All right , let the battle begin!"
As soon as the last word rang out, Jang raised his sword in a unique manner. It was the first form of the Sunmu Swordsmanship. He was planning to destroy the human with a single blow and show the tribe how stupid it was for the siblings to involve a human in their affairs. Jang began to gather as much mana as he could, preparing to cast the skill he had used to cut off the head of a Dragonian, the boss monster of the thirtieth floor. But just as he was about to swing his sword, Yeon-woo vanished.
'Where is—’ Jang tried to locate Yeon-woo with his senses, but before he could even turn to look, something grabbed the back of his head. Boom! Before he could even understand what was going on, his face was already planted on the floor. Yeon-woo pressed down on Jang’s head with an impassive look in his eyes.
It was indeed a crushing defeat, except not for Yeon-woo but for Jang. The spectators’ jaws dropped, and even those who’d heard about the strength of the Hoarder hadn’t expected the outcome to be this devastating.
Edora sprang up from her seat screaming, but Phante sat and shook his head, muttering to himself, ‘That monster has gotten even more terrifying.’
"Hahaha!" The Martial King burst into laughter as he slapped his thing. Although Jang was one of his precious children, he wasn’t worried about his son or disturbed by the outcome. He was simply entertained.
Yeon-woo pressed Jang’s head deeper into the floor. *Crack* A crack appeared on the marble floor and began to spread as he pressed with more strength.
"Urk!" Jang shivered as he lay prone on the floor, groaning in pain. He tried to move his body and get up, but the pressure Yeon-woo was applying on him made it impossible for him to move even an inch.
"To be honest, I don’t care that you want to test me. I knew I would have to prove myself if I wanted to join the war with your tribe,” Yeon-woo whispered in Jang’s ear as he half-knelt. Underneath his black mask, his eyes glowed eerily. "But do not try to use me or take advantage of me. Did you think I didn’t notice what you were trying to do with this test? And also…” Crack!
“Leave Phante and Edora alone.”
Jang wondered how things had gone terribly wrong. He couldn’t possibly lose to a novice who had just finished the Beginner Zone, and yet here he was lying under the novice’s feet in front of his tribe. He was frustrated and ashamed.
"Do you understand?"
"I’ll take that as a yes." It was only then that Yeon-woo removed his hand from Jang’s head. He turned towards the Martial King as he got to his feet. "Does anyone still think I’m unqualified to join?”
The elders shook their heads. Jang was a very promising warrior even among the One-horned tribe. Defeating him was more than enough to prove Yeon-woo’s skills. Yeon-woo turned to the Martial King for his opinion.
The Martial King nodded a few times as a sign of approval. However a shaky voie said behind Yeon-woo, “It’s not…over...!"
Yeon-woo turned to look at Jang, who was already back on his feet and holding his sword just as he had earlier. After spitting out a mouthful of blood and dirt, Jang exclaimed, "You cheater! You thought you could get away with your nasty tricks, eh?”
Yeon-woo narrowed his eyes. "You think I used tricks on you?"
"That’s right! A novice like you would never be able to defeat someone as great as me without them! Now that I know of your deceit, I won’t fall for it again. Come and fight! I will show you what you get for using dirty tricks against me!" He sneered.
Yeon-woo couldn’t help but laugh at his stupidity. He was one of those people who didn’t understand what they were getting themselves into until it was too late and they were getting beaten to a pulp. Yeon-woo beckoned at Jang with his finger. "Try as much as you want."
"Urgh!" Infuriated by Yeon-woo’s taunt, Jang darted towards Yeon-woo with eyes filled with madness. Although his mind consumed by anger, he somehow managed to concentrate his mana onto his sword. Hiss! A swirl of energy gathered around the blade of his sword.
"Energy Blade? No, stop him!"
"Father!" Edora jumped up from her seat. Phante also shouted in alarm at his father. Energy Blade, which was better known as Aura Blade throughout the Tower, was a skill that enhanced the sharpness of a sword by dispensing concentrated mana through the blade. Only the best warriors of the One-horned tribe and players who, at minimum, were on the verge of becoming rankers could use this powerful skill when they were trying to kill their opponents.
Jang was breaking the rule that the Martial King had set. In addition, Jang was preparing to cast a skill named Sword Tempest, which was an ultimate skill that would not stop until the opponent was dead. The spectators began to worry, but the Martial King just watched the scene unfold with a smile on his face.
Yeon-woo had a similarly casual attitude, and he waited until Jang had almost reached him before making a move. He crouched to avoid the the first swing of Jang’s sword, and when he noticed the next swing coming from a lower angle, Yeon-woo dashed towards Jang until they were only an inch apart.
Surprised by his sudden movement, Jang tried to back away. However, Yeon-woo was quicker than he was and grabbed Jang’s arm with one hand, twisting it while he jabbed Jang in the chest with the elbow of his other arm. Boom!
"Urk!" Jang’s arm broke with a snap, and he lost his grip on the sword. Yeon-woo’s blow shattered the centerpiece of his armor, and blood slowly began to spread through his clothes. However, Yeon-woo wasn’t done. Without any hesitation, he threw a series of punches at Jang’s face, and heavy, thudding noises echoed through the tournament hall.
Each time he was hit, Jang made a gurgling groan as he spat out a mouthful of blood. “Urrgh…urrgh…”
After Yeon-woo’s last punch, Jang collapsed helplessly to the ground, blood dripping out of every orifice on his face. He made an effort to move his twitching muscles to rise and resume fighting Yeon-woo. He couldn’t allow himself to lose, not like this. He was a proud warrior of the One-horned tribe who would be crowned king eventually. He couldn’t let himself submit to someone of a lowly race, not to mention a player who’d only reached the lower floors.
So Jang slowly propped himself up on his elbows and started to crawl towards his sword. But before he could even reach it, Yeon-woo appeared in front of him and aimed a kick at his head.
Whack! Jang rolled over the ground several times before fainting.
And just like that, the fight was finally over. Yeon-woo shook the dust off his hands as members of the Baekseon family came running from the audience to carry Jang out of the hall in a hurry. They didn’t forget to send menacing glares at Yeon-woo before leaving.
The rest of the spectators in the tournament hall began to express their admiration.
"He’s even better than I thought!"
“Yeah, I gotta admit it, he’s pretty good.”
"Did you see his moves? They were minimal but very powerful. "
"I think his skills are designed for practical use. I’d like to learn them, if I can.”
"Now, no one can complain about his skills since we know he’s strong enough to overwhelm Prince Jang."
“I really want to spar with him now. Do you think he’ll accept my challenge?”
Except for the people from the Baekseon family, none of the tribespeople seemed to care about Jang’s defeat. Instead, they were busy admiring the skills that had taken down Jang and left Yeon-woo unscathed.
Yeon-woo once again turned towards the Martial King, his eyes asking if the test was done.
The Martial King nodded in satisfaction.
* * *
When everyone started to leave the tournament hall, Phante and Edora approached Yeon-woo.
Edora thoroughly examined Yeon-woo to make sure he wasn’t hurt, while Phante grumbled and sulked, "How did you get stronger again, you monster?”
However, he couldn’t stop his lips from twitching at the memory of Jang being beaten up by Yeon-woo. The sight had been so refreshing, and his heart was filled with an unfamiliar sense of warmth and brotherhood. Phante wanted to thank Yeon-woo but he didn’t know how.
Yeon-woo just patted him on the shoulder without saying a word. After spending about a minute with the siblings, Yeon-woo noticed the Martial King leaving the hall with the elders. "Give me a minute."
Yeon-woo ran up to the Martial King, who noticed his approach and told the elders to head out first. "Anything I can help you with?"
"I need your answer."
"To what?" The Martial King back with the smile of an old fox.
Yeon-woo frowned slightly. The Martial King knew what Yeon-woo was asking about, and Yeon-woo couldn’t tell whether he was joking or refusing to tell him. For a second, Yeon-woo thought of denying responsibility for Arangdan’s annihilation, but he shook off the idea. His reaction had already blown his cover.
Yeon-woo’s serious attitude made the Martial King burst out laughing. "OK, OK. Gee, you really don’t like jokes, do you?” He continued with a smile, 『You want to know how I figured out you were responsible for what happened to Arangdan, right?』 Just as before, the Martial King began to transmit his thoughts directly to Yeon-woo instead of speaking them.
『To be honest, I didn’t figure it out by myself. Someone told me about it.』
The Martial King answered with a broad smile. 『Our Psychic Medium.』
Yeon-woo was stunned speechless.
『Our Psychic Medium received a divination message saying that a visitor would arrive in our village who had caused big trouble in the Tower. So that got me thinking what kind of trouble it could be since there have been a couple of major incidents in the Tower recently. One was the annihilation of Arangdan, and the other one is obviously the war. Now, we know who caused the war, but we didn’t know who destroyed Arangdan. So, I figured the new visitor had to be the responsible party.』
Yeon-woo felt a terrible chill running down his spine. ‘I knew the Psychic Medium was great and all, but I didn’t realize they had the power to do this.’ Although he knew all sorts of mysterious things happened in the Tower, the power of a Psychic Medium was something beyond his imagination.
『Don't worry. I'm not telling anyone else about it. Even if we're siding with the Cheonghwado, it is only out of necessity. Besides…』 The Martial King smirked. 『I’m not a weakling who needs to sell information about others for their own safety, am I?』
Yeon-woo had another look at the enormity of the Martial King’s ego, a sense of pride that only an absolute being like him could possess. To someone like him, Yeon-woo’s actions were no more significant than an ordinary novice killing a Kobold. More importantly, Yeon-woo was able to discover another piece of information from this conversation. ‘He doesn’t know who I am.'
It didn’t seem like he knew about Yeon-woo’s revenge since his reaction would have been different if so. 'As long as he doesn’t figure out the relationship between me and Jeong-woo, it doesn’t matter what else he finds out about me.’
The Martial King continued speaking. 『I only brought it up to see what kind of a person you are.』
‘The Draconic Eyes say he’s telling the truth.' However, Yeon-woo’s eyes narrowed in dissatisfaction. ‘He’s not lying, but is this really all that he knows?’ He had so many other questions, but it didn’t seem like he would get any more information out of the Martial King.
Still, it was clear to him that the Martial King was expecting something from him, and he’d have to wait and see what it was. Yeon-woo decided to try another tack. "OK, I understand. Who’s the third person you said knows the truth about Arangdan?”
『Allforone.』 A name that was completely beyond anything Yeon-woo expected fell out of the Martial King’s mouth. 『As you might know, he's just sitting on his bum at the highest floor any player has ever reached, looking down at every incident in the Tower as if he’s a god or something. Sadly, neither I nor our Psychic Medium can come close to that lazy ass.』
Yeon-woo nodded as he recalled the name of the skill he had read in the diary. ‘Thousand Li Eyes.’ His brother had mentioned that Allforone could watch everything happening in the Tower with this skill. It even allowed the user to take a peek at the physical world’s laws of causality, according to his brother.
‘Well, if the third person one is Allforone, there’s nothing I can ask about that.’ Yeon-woo asked one last question. "When are you planning to join the Cheonghwado to fight in the war?" Now that he had decided to enter the war, he had to be fully prepared.
However, the Martial King’s answer left Yeon-woo stunned in place. “In five days."Previous Chapter Next Chapter