Leveling with the Gods - Chapter 81
‘But that’s me,’ YuWon thought to himself.
He checked his title, ‘Vice-Lord of the Heavenly Demonic Cult.’
It was the next highest position in the Cult after the Lord, giving one the power to command players that joined the Cult.
The problem was that the Cult was currently dormant in the Martial Realm.
‘They’re finally reemerging,’ YuWon hypothesized.
That was very much in the realm of possibility. The only reason why the Cult had been holed up in Mt. Heaven was due to the Heavenly Demon’s stubbornness to protect the Holy Fire. Now that their long wish had been fulfilled, it wasn’t strange for the Cult to start making moves.
‘And they chose the Grand Martial Arts Tournament as their first stage…’ YuWon thought while recollecting the Heavenly Demon’s face. ‘He’s a sly fox, unlike his appearance.
The Heavenly Demon was known as the greatest martial arts master in the Martial Realm. Unlike NamGung JinWoon who just barely hadn’t managed to become a High Ranker, the Heavenly Demon had a high ranking even among High Rankers.
He was an incredibly talented martial artist and the leader who created the current Heavenly Demonic Cult.
YuWon had no way of knowing if the rumors were started by someone within the Cult or if it was planned by the Heavenly Demon, but this wasn’t a bad situation for him.
‘If the Cult has started moving, they’ll become a great help,’ thought YuWon.
The Heavenly Demonic Cult, despite being a singular martial school, was debated as being one of the greatest forces in the Martial Realm.
In a way, YuWon had obtained a backing that was even greater than the one Hoon had.
“Seeing as it’s the first time the Heavenly Demonic Cult is making an appearance, the vice-lord has to be someone really skilled. I wonder if they’re a Ranker or a player. If they’re a Ranker, they won’t be able to compete in the tournament, so I won’t get a chance to face them,” Hargaan blabbered on.
Hargaan had the impression that the vice-lord of the Cult was likely a Ranker, but that was only natural.
The vice-lord had power within the Cult that was second only to the Lord. It was hard to imagine that the Cult would give such a position to a mere player.
“Didn’t you pass the Cult’s test? Do you know anything?” Hargaan asked.
“Huh? What is?”
“It’s me. I’m the vice-lord,” YuWon explained nonchalantly.
Hargaan looked stunned for a bit, unable to process what he had heard. But when the gears started turning again and he understood YuWon’s words, his eyes widened.
“You’re the vice-lord?” Hargaan asked in shock.
“Isn’t the vice-lord a position that’s similar to the vice-head of a noble clan?”
“Something like that.”
Hargaan’s jaw dropped.
He had heard that YuWon was the first person to pass the Heavenly Demonic Cult’s test.
Hargaan himself had managed to pass the NamGung Clan’s test which was famous for its difficulty, but the Heavenly Demonic Cult’s test was known to be even harder.
He knew that YuWon was an amazing guy, but he didn’t know it was to this degree…
“Was that the reward? The position of vice-lord?”
YuWon nodded his head in response.
“Gods be damned…” Hargaan mumbled with regret, his back against the wall. “Maybe I should have challenged it.”
Unlike YuWon, Hargaan had a lot of interest in factions.
The Heavenly Demonic Cult was undeniably the greatest faction in the Martial Realm. Even if their current finances weren’t stellar, they had multiple Rankers in their midst, and just having the Heavenly Demon, a High Ranker, put them above the NamGung Clan.
And the vice-lord was someone who was able to wield the power to command that organization. To Hargaan, that was the most tempting reward one could possibly obtain.
“Once this gets out of the bag, your value is going to shoot up even higher,” Hargaan commented.
“I have no intention of joining any group.”
“I know that, but the other guilds are going to think differently,” Hargaan said with a smile on his face. “You know, tomorrow’s going to be quite fun.”
* * *
The day of the Grand Martial Arts Tournament dawned.
Yang Wonil, a player of the School of the Sapphire Sword strutted along with his shoulders held high.
‘It’s finally the Grand Martial Arts Tournament,’ he thought.
The head of the Sapphire Sword had high hopes for the tournament.
Not only was it the biggest event held in the Martial Realm, it was an event that was well-known within the Tower.
If a player that was associated with the School of the Sapphire Sword performed well in the tournament, the status of the school would immediately go up within the Martial Realm.
‘I have to get in the good eyes of the head this time around,’ Wonil thought.
For that purpose, he had started climbing the Tower again, reaching the 18th Floor. Considering the rules of the tournament only permitted players under the 25th Floor to participate, he had made it to a pretty high floor.
‘While at the Sapphire Sword, I honed and sharpened my sword.’
He hadn’t just been killing time by remaining in the Martial Realm. For this day, he had been practicing the martials arts of the Sapphire Sword again and again. And in that process, he had raised his stats, levels, and skill proficiency, making it easy for him to surpass the 15th Floor, which he was previously stuck on.
He felt confident.
In this Grand Martial Arts Tournament, even if it wasn’t winning, he had to place high.
And for that…
“I’ll have to at least pass the preliminaries with ease.”
The stage of the tournament was now within eyesight.
Tens of thousands of players were participating in the tournament, and the rules of the preliminaries were simple. Ten players would get on the stage at once, and the last person standing would move onto the main leg of the tournament.
No one knew until the preliminaries started who were in each group of ten.
‘I wonder who’ll be here,’ Wonil thought as he climbed up on the stage.
“Who’s all here?”
“Didn’t he just get to the 10th Floor?”
“It’s Yang Wonil! The bastard of the School of the Sapphire Sword!”
“Yang Wonil? Where?”
The stage was massive.
It was a special stadium made for the Grand Martial Arts Tournament. And towering above that stadium were seats that could accommodate an audience of a hundred thousand people.
The stadium itself was wide enough where thousands of people could use it at once. Its massive size was also made for Rankers to duel each other on. Built using the technology of other floors, this stadium was one of the greatest architectural works in the Tower.
Wonil puffed up his chest. ‘There are some people that recognize me,’ he thought to himself.
Being called a bastard wasn’t pleasant, but people still knew his name as he had been active in the Martial Realm for quite a while now.
‘I’m finally on this stage.’
He had been going at it for a long time just for this day.
With tensions running high, he looked around.
The player that he was most on guard against was the player from the SeoMoon clan.
‘Even if he just got to the 10th Floor, a Pure-Blood from the SeoMoon noble clan should not be underestimated. If avoidable, I shouldn’t face him directly and work around him,’ Wonil strategized.
Players from noble clans, even if they weren’t players of high floors, still had a certain level of skill.
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Wonil kept SeoMoon Chang in his mind as he turned his gaze.
‘I don’t have any intel on the other guys. Most of them must be nobodies… Huh?’
Wonil’s thought was interrupted as a familiar face came into his line of sight.
It didn’t come to him right away, but it didn’t take long for him to remember who it was.
‘That guy is…’ Wonil recollected.
It was an incident that happened while he was recruiting new players on the orders of the head of the Sapphire Sword.
It was the guy that humiliated him.
‘It’s him,’ Wonil thought with fury in his eyes.
He hadn’t been able to find him until now, yet he had casually run into him at the Grand Martial Arts Tournament.
‘It’s as the old proverb says, ‘enemies are bound to meet head-on on a narrow road.’’
He had been honing his skills while climbing the Tower. Not only was he stronger now, he wasn’t going to underestimate him this time. Wonil was confident he could easily wipe the floor with a guy that had only recently made it to the 10th Floor.
As Wonil was thinking, ‘You’re dead meat…’
“I-It’s Kim YuWon!” someone shouted.
That created an instant commotion, like pouring oil onto a fire.
“Where? Who said that?”
After Kim Yuwon’s presence was pointed out by someone that knew his face, the audience started their search for him.
YuWon was the player who was the center of attention of this tournament, but as he didn’t do much other than climb the Tower, his face wasn’t well-known.
There were even people saying that YuWon might be the greatest player in the history of the Tower because he was setting a new record on every test.
‘I’m fucked,’ Wonil dreaded. Why did he have to end up in this group out of all the possible groups?
He was already thinking he was unlucky to end up with SeoMoon Chang in his group, but he had, in fact, ended up in the same group with the worst opponent possible.
‘Since it’s come to this…’ Wonil thought while glaring at his enemy, ‘I’m going to at least cut you down.’
In fact, it was possible that even if he lost here, things could go well for him if he stood out in the preliminaries since the audience was bound to remember the match where YuWon was present.
A number that was floating in the air started counting down.
Wonil desperately waited for the number to become one.
Finally, the numbers counted down, and…
Wonil leapt forward and drew the sword on his waist.
“Remember me?” Wonil shouted.
Wonil’s sword cut through thin air.
He thought he would cut him down, but his target had managed to sidestep his attack.
His attack missed by a thin margin, so Wonil moved lightly on his feet and continued with his technique.
“I haven’t forgotten about the humiliation you presented me that day…”
Wonil felt a slight impact on the bottom of his jaw. It didn’t hurt much, as if it was a punch from a kid.
‘What was that?’ Wonil wondered.
He couldn’t tell what it was that hit his jaw, so he decided to just ignore it since whatever he was hit by, he wouldn’t feel a thing no matter how many times he was hit by it.
Or so he thought…
No matter how much strength he tried to muster, he couldn’t move.
His hand gave out, and his sword fell to the stadium floor.
While looking at his opponent’s face, he felt a sense of despair. For things to end right when they had only just started…
“My… name is… Yang…” as Wonil tried to say his name…
… His body flopped onto the ground.
“So, who are you?” YuWon asked, confused at the guy that suddenly charged at him and got knocked out by a single hit.
This Yang guy spoke as if he had been wronged by YuWon, but YuWon had no recollection of meeting someone like him during any part of the test.
‘Did he already faint?’ YuWon wondered.
He didn’t even hit him hard, so he shrugged it off as someone who was just weak.
And with that, YuWon stopped paying attention to Wonil, who laid on the floor, knocked out and drooling.
There were now nine players left.
With Wonil’s surprise attack, people’s attention was already centered on YuWon.
“What did he just do?”
“I couldn’t even see anything.”
“… That guy must be Kim YuWon.”
“Are you sure?”
“I heard the rumors. Black eyes and black hair. Dons the Pyromancy Robe. He matches the description.”
“Then it must be him.”
All the players in the same group were wary of YuWon.
It was only natural, since only one player could make it to the main stage of the tournament. Without taking down YuWon, it was impossible to move further on in the tournament.
“It seems like everyone knows now…” YuWon said.
He had wanted to take it easy in the preliminaries, but he’d changed his mind.
YuWon slowly drew his sword while looking around at the other eight players, saying, “You can come at me one at a time, or you can fight me all at once.”
A sharp sound rang out while he drew his blade.
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YuWon decided not to avoid the attention he had gathered.
There was a high level of tension filling the stadium.
“Let’s finish this quickly and not drag this out,” YuWon announced.