Leveling with the Gods - Chapter 97
Small waves crashed into the cliff, scattering into countless water drops.
YuWon was sitting atop the cliff at the edge of the island, looking down.
‘It’s almost time.’
YuWon got up after checking the time.
It wasn’t the official starting location of the test, but it didn’t matter since YuWon was still technically within the range of the test site.
He wouldn’t be able to listen to the explanation of the test, but it was fine since he remembered the contents of the 20th Floor’s test.
[Commencing the 20th Floor’s test.]
[There are various sea monsters living on the small island of Triton.]
[For the next 12 hours, kill the monsters and obtain ‘Hearts of the Sea.’]
[Depending on the number of ‘Hearts of the Sea’ you collect, you will be awarded additional contribution points.]
The basic premise of the 20th Floor’s test was similar to the 11th Floor’s test, just that instead of flags, you had to get 「Hearts of the Sea.」
The major differences were that the stage was an island, the difficulty of the monsters was greater, and you were evaluated as an individual.
But with those small differences, the test was like something entirely different.
The 20th Floor was one of the major crossroads for players.
‘This is where tests start becoming team-oriented,’ YuWon thought.
The monsters on the island were far too strong for players on the 20th Floors to kill alone. You needed at least a group of four or five people to defeat a single one, which meant that players had to team up, whether they liked it or not.
In addition, unlike the 11th Floor’s test, there was no restriction on how many people could pass. On the 20th Floor’s test, there was no reason for people to divide into opposing factions.
And thus players, realizing that it was more convenient to be a part of a group, started forming proper teams.
That was why the 20th Floor was known as a crossroad for players.
The team formation was also why players gathered up at the same location for the beginning of the test.
“I feel a bit bad for them,” YuWon said.
He had no intention of just peacefully participating in the test.
He slowly tilted his body downwards.
Turbulent waves were colliding against the cliff.
YuWon closed his eyes as his body plunged into the water and slowly sank.
‘Because everyone except me is going to fail.’
* * *
“You over there!”
“Fall back! Send in the next group!”
“Last just a little bit longer!”
The hunting had started all across the island. Players were grouped up into teams of eight to fifteen people.
Theseus watched them hunt Sea Serpents through the screen on his player kit.
“What about Kim YuWon? Have you found him yet?” Theseus asked.
“We’re still searching for him.”
“So that’s a no.”
“… I’m sorry, sir.”
“If you have time to be sorry, you have time to search. Assign more men to the task.”
The test assistants moved according to Theseus’s orders.
Even the mighty Olympus didn’t have the authority to let random Rankers come in and out of the testing site. Fortunately for Theseus, among the Rankers he managed, there were quite a few people with search skills.
There was one thing that bothered him.
‘How are they unable to find one person on this tiny island?’ Theseus wondered.
It had been hours since the start of the test, yet they still hadn’t found YuWon.
There was nothing he could do during the test, but it still bothered him that his plans were crumbling to pieces.
“Did he run away?”
Theseus couldn’t rule that possibility out.
YuWon should have been aware that he was an enemy of Olympus. It wouldn’t have been the strangest thing if he’d decided to bolt after he was threatened by the Crimson Wolf Guild before the test event started.
‘But is he the type to do that?’
There wasn’t much Theseus knew about YuWon, but there were a few things that made him hesitant to think that YuWon might have run away.
‘He joined hands with the Giants.’
He had heard from the Crimson Wolf Guild that YuWon and the Giants met up, which allowed Olympus to prepare a trap, knowing ahead of time that YuWon was planning on participating in this test.
But Theseus was greatly puzzled. Things didn’t add up, even if he did help a few Giant kids.
‘Why? No, more like how?’
Giants had a deep-seated hatred against humans thanks to what humans did during the Gigantomachy. Due to the war, more than half of the Giants were killed, making them still hostile to humans after all this time. But, worried about a second Gigantomachy breaking out, Giants typically kept that hatred to themselves…
So it was definitely strange that YuWon had managed to join forces with the Giants because the relationship between humans and Giants should have been irreparable after the Gigantomachy.
‘Could it be?’
A thought came to him.
“The Giants are hiding the Stone of the Sea,” Theseus’s father, Poseidon, had told him. “Zeus said to avoid getting into another war with the Giants until the next Gigantomachy, but that doesn’t mean we should sit around and do nothing.”
Poseidon had a great obsession for the Stone of the Sea. It was to a point that he was willing to go against the orders from Zeus, the King of Olympus.
“While you’re acting as the test examiner, find the Stone. If you manage to do that, I shall acknowledge you as my son.”
Being an illegitimate son, that was an offer Theseus could not resist.
Poseidon was one of the “Big Three” gods of Olympus, and being acknowledged as his son meant that he would become the official successor of the Sea God.
‘There’s no way Father would have false information. I’m certain that the Giants do have the Stone.’
Or at least that’s what he had originally thought…
A thought crept up on Theseus. ‘Is Kim YuWon related somehow?’
A human had managed to move with Giants, and Giants had started to come out of the forest.
The picture he had first had in mind was wiped away, and a new picture started to come into place. But as of yet, he couldn’t see the full picture.
That was when…
The ground below him started to shake, as if an earthquake was happening.
In that moment, Theseus recollected countless pieces of information.
“… Was that what it was?” Theseus said while smirking.
It was an enigma as to why after so much searching, they couldn’t find the stone.
He wondered where it could be and if the Giants even really possessed the Stone. And if the Giants did have the Stone, why didn’t they use it during the Gigantomachy?
The answer to all of it lied here.
Theseus pulled out his player kit and made a call.
As an old habit, he politely put his hands together as he waited for the call to go through.
After a moment, Theseus bowed in the direction of the player kit.
He spoke, “Greetings. I know it’s been a while, but…”
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A screen popped up.
Theseus’s voice trembled as it was a face he hadn’t seen in a long time.
“I think I’ve finally found it,” Theseus said while raising his head, “Father.”
* * *
The 20th Floor test was progressing smoothly.
Like every test before, players diligently hunted the sea monsters, collecting 「Hearts of the Sea.」 Almost half the players had managed to obtain a 「Heart of the Sea」 for themselves.
Another Sea Serpent fell.
One of the teammates who was rummaging through the corpse of the Sea Serpent shouted, “I found it!”
He raised a clear blue crystal up in the air. It was a 「Heart of the Sea,」 which was required to pass the test.
“That’s one more for the books.”
“This is pretty easy.”
“How many is that?”
“That’s all we need. What do we do now?”
Their team had 15 people, and they had managed to get a 「Heart of the Sea」 for each person.
Akail, the leader of the team, checked the remaining time.
[06 : 18 : 21]
‘Not bad,’ Akail thought to himself.
They were teammates that he had been working with since the 10th Floor. Their synergy was good, and each person had solid skills. But that wasn’t really all that much of a surprise since they were all players being sponsored by Olympus.
‘Passing the test is now confirmed, so…’
Akail looked around.
From the beginning of the test, he had placed a floating ‘eye’ above the island, looking with his search skill for a single person—Kim YuWon.
‘Where did he go?’ he wondered.
Olympus had given a direct order to find and take out YuWon.
This was, of course, an impossible task.
They might have been players that were fairly well-known on the 20th Floor, but it was ridiculous to ask them to try and defeat YuWon with just a team of 15 people.
‘It’ll be better for us if he doesn’t appear.’
They’d still be scolded afterwards, but as long as they made an attempt to find YuWon, it was better for them if YuWon didn’t appear.
Taking a breather after defeating a Sea Serpent, the teammates started chatting, feeling bored.
Akail got up from his spot while watching them.
“Did you guys all get enough rest?” he asked his team.
“We’re all rested and ready!”
“Should we get going?”
With no one injured and their passing being basically confirmed, they were all feeling strongly motivated.
Akail nodded his head, and his teammates started getting up.
“We’ll now split up into two groups, and—”
That was when…
… Water burst up from below the cliffs.
The team responded nimbly.
“What is it now?”
“Another Sea Serpent?”
“No, it’s too small for that!”
The ‘something’ that shot up with the seawater was too small to be any monster that appeared on the island. Even the smallest monsters were at least three to four meters in size, and Sea Serpents were dozens of meters long.
It looked like it might have been a man at best.
“Wait… It’s a person!”
The person landed safely on the ground.
The man had wet black hair that looked similar to seaweed, and he wore red clothes.
‘Who is this guy?’ Akail wondered.
‘He looks like a player and not a monster. So why did he come up from the sea…?’ Akail wondered.
Then it hit him.
It was odd. The water under the island was a danger zone crawling with monsters like the Sea Serpents which took his team of 15 people to take down. And because it was underwater, it was extra difficult for players to hunt there.
So naturally, Akail’s mind went to a single person.
“Could it be…?” Akail blurted.
The face hidden by the hair started to slowly reveal itself.
The man looked a bit different due to his hair being wet, but the face was the same.
“Kim YuWon?” Akail said in disbelief.
“Is that really YuWon?”
“Why did he pop out from the sea…?”
Akail’s teammates were all stunned by YuWon’s sudden appearance.
YuWon said, “Are you guys from Olympus?”
Akail shivered as a chill went down his spine. How did YuWon know their affiliation?
YuWon was right, but neither Akail nor his teammates could say yes. They instead all remained silent, worried that the moment they said yes, they might all lose their heads.
The Olympian players were all frozen stiff.
YuWon turned around and spoke with his back to the players, “I don’t want to fight you guys, so you don’t have to be so scared.”
“…?” Akail was confused.
He wondered if YuWon was going to just let them go.
He had heard that YuWon and Olympus were not on good terms. But seeing as how YuWon was facing away from them, he must really have no intention of fighting them.
He was a bit relieved that YuWon was going to let them go, but that wasn’t all good news for Akail.
‘If we run from here…’ Akail weighed his options, ‘we’ll probably be punished by Theseus.’
There was also a chance that they might lose all support from Olympus.
YuWon interrupted his thinking, saying, “Because even if you don’t want to fight, you’ll have to fight soon.”
“What?” Akail exclaimed.
“What do you mean by tha—?” one of his teammates tried to ask before being interrupted by the ground trembling.
Akail sensed that something was off.
That was when…
Something burst up from the sea near the island.
It was a creature he was familiar with.
‘A Sea Serpent?’ Akail scrutinized.
It was a monster that lived in the sea with a body length of over ten meters and the most common monster one could encounter on the 20th Floor.
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“How many…” Akail slowly spoke.
His voice trembled seeing what was unfolding in front of his very eyes, “… Are there?”