At first, Yeon-woo thought he had heard it wrong. ‘Five? Not fifteen?’ While calming his pounding heart and trying to maintain his cool, Yeon-woo asked the Martial King, "Why is it happening so soon?"
"What do you mean by that? Is something wrong?"
"No, it’s just…From what I remember, the players on the eleventh floor still didn’t seem ready at all.”
Yeon-woo had wandered around the floor while collecting materials, and although the clouds of war loomed over the cities, there hadn’t been any rumors of the clans looking for mercenaries and allies.
"And that's why I said five days.”
Yeon-woo was puzzled.
"We are the ones starting the war."
It was only then that Yeon-woo realized what was going on. ‘Red Dragon still doesn't know about them.’ The One-horned tribe was going to show up on the eleventh floor and start attacking without any warning. 'It will be a massacre.’
The Martial King said with a sly laugh. "Since we’ve decided to come out of seclusion, shouldn’t we make a big entrance?”
* * *
'Five days from now.' After leaving the hall, Yeon-woo slowly organized his thoughts as he walked down the street. The war was happening sooner than he expected, and he shivered at the thought—not from fear but from excitement. He felt fighting spirit fill his heart. 'It’s finally going to happen.'
The time he could finally point his sword at his enemies was drawing near. Although it was a little disappointing that he couldn't stand at the front lines, the mere thought of striking his enemies brought him joy. Of course, he couldn’t allow others to know about his plans, so he pretended to be as calm as possible. It was lucky that he was wearing a mask since he couldn’t stop his lips from curling up in a smile.
In an effort to compose his mind, Yeon-woo began to ponder the Martial King’s plans. 'He said their first target is Kuram, a city some distance away from Barrack.' Kuram was a city built by Red Dragon on the eleventh floor, and he’d visited a few times while collecting materials. He remembered it being surrounded by high walls and protected by Red Dragon’s subordinate clans.
If the One-horned tribe raided the city and took possession of it: ‘It will definitely create a strong impression, just as the Martial King wants.’ The Martial King was planning to make a big splash so that the Cheonghwado would feel indebted to them.
'Now, what do I have to do before we leave?’ Yeon-woo assessed his current situation. He had to repair the weapons that had been worn out by his battle with the Manticore, and he had to examine how to apply the skills he had so far used against monsters or weak players against rankers. ‘The biggest problem is...’ Yeon-woo suddenly wondered what kind of role he would be playing in the war. ‘Is there anything I can do to make myself stronger in five days?’
Yeon-woo went over his skills and equipment to check if there was anything he could improve. The first thing that struck him was Aegis. It would be very helpful if he could control more than three plates at the same time. However, he had to dismiss the idea since there was no way he could master controlling another plate in just five days.
However, Yeon-woo remembered the clue he had received on his way to the village. ‘Magic Circuit.’ There had to be a way for him to alter his Magic Circuit in order to make his mana flow like Jinbup. Yeon-woo had found out that most of the people in the village had something similar to Jinbup inside their body, and he thought about Mugong, which the One-horned tribe had developed in order to control their mana. ‘Especially the beast I saw inside the Martial King must have been a manifestation of his Mugong.’
Yeon-woo thought about asking Phante and Edora about it, then a worrying thought crossed his mind. ‘Incidentally, how do I tell the Phoenix and Chirpy about this?’ He had promised them he'd be back soon, but the situation wouldn’t allow him to keep that promise. ‘Maybe I should go visit them for a short while when we go to the eleventh floor.’
* * *
"How did I do, hon?" The Martial King raised his head and asked the air inside the tournament hall, scratching the back of his head. Although there was nobody in the hall, a voice rang in his ears. Yeon-woo would have been surprised because it was the same voice that had spoken to him when he traversed the Hoho’unmujin—the voice of the Psychic Medium, one of the emotional pillars of the One-horned tribe just like the Martial king, as well as the leader of the Cheong-lam family. "You think he’s really the one?"
『The constellations say so. Have I ever been wrong with my predictions?』
"Of course not." The Martial King shook his head. The current Psychic Medium had never made a wrong prediction, and the One-horned tribe’s prosperity had a lot to do with her guidance.
『For now, we’ll just have to keep an eye on him to confirm if he’s the right one. Even if he isn’t, we still have time to look for another one.』
"I guess you’re right."
『Besides, you’ve seen what he has accomplished. He broke through our Hoho’unmujin without any external aid, and he has already won Edora’s favor. Don't you think he has proven enough of his potential already?』
The Martial King nodded. He’d been surprised himself when he heard someone had crossed through their Hoho’unmujin on his own, even though it was only half of it. "Anyway, he must be the one who is blessed by Death." The Martial King stroked his chin, an avid look in his eyes. "I kind of want to teach him."
『Are you going to take him as a disciple?』
The Martial King nodded with a broad smile. "If I can, yes."
* * *
Leonte felt like he was on the verge of losing his mind. He had no idea what to do.
"And this idiot is a Martial God just like us. That’s pretty amazing, don’t you guys think?" A man with golden eyes, a horn like that of a goat, and a pair of sharp canines jutting out from under his lips teased. Flann had once been a member of the One-horned tribe but was now the Spear God of the Cheonghwado. He sat between the Saber God and the Bow God, who nodded silently at his words.
Leonte’s face became more and more distorted. A month had already passed since he’d taken the position of the Cheonghwado’s Fist God, which had been vacant for a long time. However, the other Martial Gods did not acknowledge him as one of them for several reasons.
The first thing they usually picked on was his past. Leonte was known to have betrayed his former clan, Arthia, in order to join the Cheonghwado. But the players of the Cheonghwado followed the warrior’s code, so in their eyes, Leonte was nothing more than a rat.
The next thing they picked on was his skills. Although he had a high rank compared to most of the rankers in the Tower, he still lacked the skills to be called a true high ranker. They also weren’t impressed by his skillset, which was not based on a specific weapon—the standard for judging one’s power in the Cheonghwado. Instead, it revolved around a variety of skills, or in their words, “tricks”.
Despite all these flaws, he had been given the Fist God position because he was the player closest to their level. However, as soon as Leonte established himself as the Fist God, he got into massive trouble, and his defeat at Bahal’s hands greatly damaged the Cheonghwado’s reputation. Leonte could only bite his lower lip and endure their criticisms. 'The stone...if only I had my hands on the stone...!'
Leonte’s yearning for the stone he had lost in the Tutorial grew bigger with every passing second.
"We even wasted the Mystic Dragon’s Neidan to help a piece of trash like him recover.” The Spear God continued piling blame on Leonte, relishing the opportunity. He’d been opposed to recruiting Leonte from the very beginning.
However, a voice filled with a heavy and irresistible power suddenly echoed in the room. 『Spear. That’s enough.』 The voice came from a room not too far from the table where the four Martial Gods were seated, where the silhouette of a man sitting on the ground appeared behind bamboo curtains.
The words of the Sword God, one of the Nine Kings of the Tower and the founder of the Cheonghwado, held unquestionable authority and so the Spear God eased off, although his golden eyes were still fixed on Leonte with a displeased glare.
『Whether you agree or not, Leonte is already part of our clan, and he is the Fist God who will lead the Cheonghwado with us. I need you to stop arguing about this.』
The Spear God turned his head aside with an audible “Hmph”. The Saber God silently nodded and the Bow God closed his eyes as if completely uninterested in the situation. They wouldn’t argue about Leonte’s qualifications from now on, but Leonte found the situation even more humiliating. Beneath the table, veins bulged on his clenched fists.
『We should focus on how we will be fighting against Red Dragon. As you know, our forces are inferior to theirs.』
The Martial Gods shut their mouths, and an uneasy silence hung over the room for a while. None of them wanted to admit it, but the Sword God was right. Red Dragon was the strongest clan in the Tower in both name and reality. Even though the Cheonghwado also belonged to the Eight Clans, fighting head-on would only mean being wiped out, and Red Dragon would only suffer minimal damage.
『But we have the sword, which they failed to take, in our possession. And I believe it’s not impossible to cut the throat of that arrogant Summer Queen.』
The Martial Gods’ expressions changed at the mention of the sword.
『Before we start the war, we need someone to perform a clean-up task.』
"Why do we need a clean-up task?" the Spear God asked, looking at the Sword God’s silhouette.
『The four Legendary Beasts.』
The Spear God nodded in sudden understanding. If Red Dragon were to capture or win over the four Legendary Beasts, which was highly likely, the situation would become serious. "Who is gonna take up that job? It’s not easy to kill the Legendary Beasts. They’re too strong, considering they’re only boss monsters of a lower floor. Even I don’t want to deal with those beasts."
The rankers had not bothered to kill Legendary Beasts because each one of them was as strong as a high-ranker, but only provided small and worthless items and rewards since they were boss monsters of a lower floor.
In addition, the Legendary Beasts had the abilities to recover and resurrect. It wasn’t uncommon for players to kill one of them, only for the beast to come back to life and take revenge. For these reasons, players regarded killing the Legendary Beasts as a fool’s errand.
『It has to be done. Saber God.』
The Saber God answered with a nod.
『I’ll allow you to unleash Six and Seven. Get rid of them all. I will let you take the Neidans.』
A hint of greed flashed in the Saber God’s eyes. “Consider it done.” The Saber God smiled with anticipation.
The Spear God smacked his lips, while the Bow God’s eyes remained closed.
『We received a message from the One-horned tribe not long ago. They will be making their move very soon. Saber God, you can coordinate with them. As for the rest of you, until then, I need you to carry out your tasks to your fullest ability.』 The Sword God’s voice began to fade away. 『Now, we will bring this meeting to a close.』
With that last sentence, the Sword God vanished from the room, and the four Martial Gods rose from their seats at the same time. The Spear God suddenly called to the Saber God at the exit.
"What is it?"
"Which beast are you gonna kill first?"
The Saber God stared at the Spear God with an irritated look. “Why?”
"I need to know your destination so I can tell my brothers to avoid you," the Spear God answered with a shrug.
The Saber God turned back towards the exit and said in an indifferent tone, "The Phoenix of the south."Previous Chapter Next Chapter