Leveling with the Gods - Chapter 72
Purple flames were not common. At the very least, Hoon had never seen or heard of them before.
‘This can’t be a mere coincidence,’ Hoon thought, recollecting the traces left behind at Agrea’s Dungeon.
He could vividly remember the wounds left on the dungeon’s boss, the Spider Queen Agrea. The sword wound so sharp, precise, and destructive that it made him wonder if it was the doing of a Ranker.
‘So why…?’ he wondered.
The sword that he felt when he traded blows with YuWon was completely different from what had made the cut on Agrea’s body. With YuWon’s power, it should have been impossible to cut the dungeon’s boss with a single strike.
That left only two possibilities.
‘Either I’m mistaken, or… he was going easy against me,’ Hoon concluded.
Judging by how YuWon’s response didn’t change from before or after Ro’el’s buff, he had an idea of what the truth might be.
Hoon gritted his teeth. The duel was basically over, and if YuWon really was the one who conquered Agrea’s Dungeon…
“Let’s retreat,” Hoon spoke to Ro’el using sonic telepathy.*
*TL/N: A martial art skill where one uses ki to transfer sound to their target.
Ro’el turned her head towards Hoon in shock. She then glared at him in confusion. She couldn’t understand why he wanted them to retreat.
“If YuWon is the same person as the one I’m thinking of, this fight is meaningless,” Hoon continued speaking in secrecy to Ro’el, staring at the purple fire floating around YuWon. “We will all die.”
Ro’el was at a crossroads with how certain Hoon sounded.
Hoon normally didn’t say anything unless he was certain. Coupled with the fact that he was always confident and had the skills to back it up, Ro’el wondered what could possibly make Hoon suggest that they retreat first.
YuWon looked back and forth between Ro’el and Hoon. After standing still for a moment, his eyes now red, he took a step towards them and asked, “Are you guys done talking?”
Hoon flinched in surprise before nodding his head.
YuWon noticed he was communicating with Ro’el through sonic telepathy, yet he waited for them.
“Can I ask you a question?” said Hoon.
YuWon stopped in his tracks and nodded. “If it’s only one question.”
“Are you the one that conquered Agrea’s Dungeon?”
Agrea’s Dungeon. The mention of it made the players around him murmur in shock.
It was a difficult dungeon that hadn’t been conquered in a long time. The fact that the dungeon was conquered was shocking, but the players could accept that it had happened, considering it was YuWon.
“What if I tell you that it was?” YuWon answered.
“… So I was right,” Hoon responded. In that moment, he was able to, by proxy, get a taste of YuWon’s true strength.
“If you guys want to fight him, we’re out. Let’s go,” Hoon commanded his teammates.
“Are we really leaving?”
Hoon’s unexpected actions made his shocked teammates chase after him.
Ro’el bit her lip from the sudden development. “You’re a coward, unlike the rumors,” she insulted Hoon.
“Feel free to say whatever you want,” Hoon said while looking back at YuWon. “I value my teammates’ lives more than my pride.”
One could always retry a test.
The test fee was pretty expensive, but points weren’t a problem for Hoon. Not only did he have quite a lot of points saved up, but if needed, he could always ask his clan as well.
However, there was no re-do for your life.
Even if the entirety of Team B fought YuWon at once and somehow managed to defeat him…
‘At least half… no, most of us would die,’ Hoon predicted, and he didn’t want to pass the test like that.
From the beginning, he didn’t like this test, so quitting here was an option in itself.
Hoon’s teammates were touched by his statement.
In response, Hoon waved at them to hurry up.
YuWon had no intention to stop them. ‘If they’ll step out on their own, that’s fine by me,’ he thought.
It wasn’t bad for YuWon for there to be fewer enemies to fight.
Hoon put down his flag on the ground, and his teammates followed suit. It was clear that Hoon’s teammates had a great amount of trust in him.
“Damn it…” Ro’el muttered with a frown, watching Hoon and his teammates walk away.
Now there were only 40 members of Team B present. They still outnumbered YuWon greatly, but the absence of Hoon was a huge loss as he was the most skilled player on Team B.
‘Still…’ Ro’el thought while looking over at YuWon. He was truly delectable-looking prey.
With Hoon gone, if they could defeat YuWon, the glory would be all hers.
“What should we do?”
“We still outnumber him…”
“The numbers aren’t the issue here!”
“Dammit. Maybe I should have left with Hoon.”
There were many hesitating, but no one was actually giving up. This was thanks to the power rising within them that filled them with courage.
“So no one else wants to give up. Tch,” YuWon said in disappointment. He had hoped that more would change their minds with Hoon leaving.
“I’m saying this just in case, but don’t kill too many kids. It’s unsightly for an adult to run amok in the middle of children fighting,” said the hero Hercules. Even in the middle of the meeting to pick who would go back in time, Hercules was worried about the players’ lives.
“They are the guys that we need to fight the Outers together later…”
“I don’t know who we’re sending, but whoever it may be, they’re bound to run into some future Rankers.”
“And that will be a loss for our side.”
It was a promise made in the middle of the meeting. As long as it was within their abilities, they would climb the Tower in a way that saved players rather than killed them. Because at the end of the day, it was the Inners, the beings inside the Tower, that had to fight against the Outers. So if possible, they had to avoid killing players and Rankers.
Not only that, but they had to prevent events that could result in a big casualty for the Inners. That was the task at hand for YuWon.
‘That is what I’m supposed to do…’ YuWon thought.
So far he had kept that promise the best he could. As long as they weren’t scum like Kim MyungHoon or actual villains, he took the test in a way that saved people.
‘But what can I do when they’re baring their fangs so much…’ YuWon thought.
Hercules insisted that they should save people rather than kill them, and Hercules would have indeed figured out a way. He had the ability to make such things happen because, as a hero, that was what he lived for.
However, YuWon was different.
‘I can’t guarantee anything.’
YuWon liked Hercules for being a hero, but he himself could not be one.
The fire around YuWon started to grow more intense.
In response, the players on Team B started to prepare their skills one by one.
‘I’ll give it my best shot…’ YuWon thought.
His will made the fire roar bigger.
‘… But if it can’t be helped, it can’t be helped.’
The fire enveloping YuWon’s body opened its mouth.
It was now time for him to butt into a children’s fight.
* * *
Hoon headed to Team B’s original starting point.
His teammates were busy trying to gauge the situation. They initially left according to Hoon’s will, but they wondered if this was really okay.
“Are you really going to give up?” one of Hoon’s teammates asked.
The question prompted Hoon to stop in his tracks and turn around.
“What do you mean?” Hoon asked.
The teammate that asked the question was surprised. He didn’t think Hoon would go as far as to stop and turn around.
“I-It’s just it’s not like you.”
“Not like me?” Hoon wondered.
“I get that the opponent is really strong, but it’s not like you to give up without even properly fighting…”
Hoon let out a sigh. His teammate wasn’t wrong.
He hadn’t lived that long of a life, but this was the first time this had happened as well.
“I didn’t like it,” Hoon said.
“Don’t like what?”
Hoon continued, “Passing the test like this and making YuWon fail like this.”
Hoon looked back in the direction he came from.
He had traveled quite a long distance, but he could feel that the fight had started by the intense flow of mana.
“Even if we did fight, we can’t win… But if that was the only factor, I might have fought. Because if all of us fought together, we might have had even the slightest chance. However…”
Hoon took a momentary pause before continuing.
“… The one that deserves to pass this test isn’t me.”
Hoon’s explanation made his teammates nod in agreement.
To begin with, this test’s roster made no sense. The difference between Team A and Team B was ridiculously unbalanced.
Despite that, YuWon was making up for that gap by himself.
So based purely on skills, YuWon was more than qualified to be one to move onto the next floor.
“You’re too uptight.”
“But he’s got a point.”
“I guess there’s always the next test.”
“It seems like a waste to let our team luck go like this, but this is why I like you.”
Hoon’s teammates weren’t all that disappointed because as long as they had the skills, they could always move onto the next floor with the next test.
A smile of satisfaction bloomed on Hoon’s face.
He was relieved because he had been worried on the off chance that his teammates might have been dissatisfied with his decision.
‘They really are a good team,’ he thought, thinking back to what his father, NamGung JinWoon told him.
His father insisted that the things required to climb the Tower weren’t only excellent skills and power. What was equally as important were amazing teammates to climb the Tower together with.
Starting from the Tutorial, Hoon searched for teammates to climb the Tower with him. And because he took the task of climbing the Tower seriously, he spent a long time selecting his teammates.
That was how he ended up with his current team. A team that was not only skilled but had the same moral code as him. And Hoon greatly liked his current team.
“Now then, let’s go back…” Hoon trailed off while turning around to continue back to the starting point.
He spotted a player shining gold walking towards him in the distance.
‘The ‘king’?’ Hoon wondered.
It was Team B’s ‘king.’ The player he didn’t know the name or face of. The player he couldn’t remember a single thing about had appeared.
* * *
[You obtained a flag.]
[You obtained 10cp.]
[You obtained 2 flags.]
Multiple messages rang in quick succession.
YuWon picked up the flags that had dropped and rummaged through the players that were lying on the ground.
It was a message that felt good to see because the more flags he had, the higher his chance of passing this test went up, and the more CP he obtained, the bigger his reward would become.
“Someone, save me…”
“I-It’s a demon! Ahhhhh!”
The entire place had erupted into chaos.
Despite the name ‘Holy Fire,’ YuWon looked like a demon to the players. But that was inevitable.
‘That’s just how the power of an Outer is,’ YuWon thought to himself.
The power of an Outer was a power from outside the Tower.
People had an instinctive fear of the unknown. The 「Holy Fire」 was a foreign power to them, so it evolved into what they feared the most.
And so the 「Holy Fire」 grew by consuming their fear to grow larger. This made YuWon’s job not to make the flame bigger but to control it and reign it in.
‘If the fire grows too big, it’ll become hard even for me to control.’
YuWon put out some of the fire and looked around.
The test site had descended into utter chaos. Dozens of players were already unable to fight anymore.
There were a few players that were putting up a good fight against the 「Holy Fire,」 but they wouldn’t last long.
‘There’s no way this is going to end here…’
This test was a stage set up by Olympus to get YuWon. There was no way the only trap they had set up for him was inconveniencing him by ruining the balance of the teams. There was bound to be a more surefire, secure trap set up for him.
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After the Heaven’s Net was enacted, YuWon had been searching for a single player with his 「Cinder Eyes,」 and finally…
‘You’re here…’ YuWon thought, seeing the player in the distance that he had been searching for. ‘The ‘king.’’