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Chapter 51: Gate Ego

“Was that a system announcement?” Gi-Gyu whispered in shock when he realized that the blue smoke was speaking through the system. Still having difficulty understanding what was happening, Gi-Gyu stood in silence. After a long pause, the androgynous system voice asked him again.

[I will ask you again.]

-I will ask you again.

Slowly, its blue smoke began to find its shape.

“It’s a lich?”

The boss monster, like its minions, was nothing but a bag of bones enshrouded by a black robe. Gi-Gyu quickly realized that it was a lich, one of the strongest monsters in the undead category. It was common knowledge that a lich only appeared in high-level gates and the floors above the 60th.

The lich was so strong that Gi-Gyu had to use every ounce of his strength just to resist its aura.

‘This is crazy!!!’

There was no way this lich was a C-grade boss monster. A hopeful assumption would put it in B-grade; the best assumption would put it alongside A-grade gate monsters.

“Lou, you idiot!” Gi-Gyu continued to stare at the lich as he angrily murmured.

-S-sorry…

Lou told Gi-Gyu earlier that he didn’t expect a strong boss monster, but it was clear his Ego had been dead wrong. It was rare for Lou to apologize, so it was apparent they were in as precarious a position as possible.

[I’ll ask you for the last time.]

-I’ll ask you for the last time.

Gi-Gyu was now certain of his first hypothesis: The lich was talking with him through the system.

[Are you the one who wishes to become my master?]

-Are you the one who wishes to become my master?

“That’s right!” Gi-Gyu answered emphatically. There was no point in acting cowardly at the moment. The best thing he could do was fight with everything he had.

“Hmm…” Eerie blue smoke escaped the lich’s mouth as it murmured. What Gi-Gyu could hear in his head now wasn’t the system's voice or the monster. It was more like a vocalization. He wasn’t sure if vocalization was the word he was looking for, but this was the best description he could come up with.

The blue lich moved like a ghost as it studied Gi-Gyu.

“Interesting…” the lich murmured, and the sound echoed throughout the dark, gloomy room.

“Are you the gate?” Gi-Gyu glared at the lich and asked sharply. Thankfully, the overwhelming dark aura wrapped around him was slowly receding, so he was regaining control over his body.

‘I think I might have a chance against it.’

Due to his long period of growth, Gi-Gyu felt he could defeat this boss monster.

“The gate…?” When the lich seemed confused, Gi-Gyu clarified, “I want to be this gate’s master. You just asked me if I want to become your master. Get it? So I will ask you again. Are you the gate?”

“Gate…” the lich murmured before becoming still. “That’s right. I’m the master that rules this place of exile. Therefore, you must prove yourself worthy of being my master…”

When the lich opened his hands, a dark-colored staff materialized in them. Before the lich could even firmly grab the staff, Gi-Gyu ran toward it with Lou and El in his hands.

***

Kaboom!

An unbelievably loud explosion took place. A black orb had exploded right in front of Gi-Gyu’s eyes, thrusting him away.

Thud.

Gi-Gyu slammed against the nearby wall and fell to the ground.

“Khoff!”

That single attack had given him a severe internal injury, as he coughed up a handful of blood.

“Dammit…” The explosion was so outlandish that Gi-Gyu couldn’t help swearing out loud.

Whoosh!

When the lich waved its staff, dozens of black arrows appeared in front of the monster. Gi-Gyu didn’t even get the time to take care of his internal injury before he had to dodge another attack.

Booooom!!!!!!!!!!!

All those dark, ominous arrows accurately struck the exact spot Gi-Gyu was standing on just moments ago.

‘I would’ve died.’

Gi-Gyu felt certain that he would've died instantly had even a single arrow struck him.

“Accelerate!” he shouted to activate his skill. Now wasn’t the time to be stingy about using everything he had. The best strategy for him was to finish this battle as quickly as possible.

Gi-Gyu’s movements became steadily fast; unfortunately, the lich simply increased the number of arrows it created to counter his speed. In addition, they were now following Gi-Gyu like homing missiles.

Kaboom!

Gi-Gyu jumped, kicked a wall, and then used the resultant thrust to narrowly dodge the lich’s attack. Moments later, numerous black arrows struck the wall he used to gain forward thrust. Since the arrows were homing in on him, he had to lodge them into the structures around him.

When Gi-Gyu turned toward the lich, he saw that the monster hadn’t made any more black arrows yet. Taking this as his chance, he began to rush toward it.

Clack!

Gi-Gyu swung Lou, which the lich blocked with its staff. He muttered, “Sorry, but that wasn’t my main attack. This is!” He used the force from Lou and the staff’s clash to flip and land on his feet. And the second his feet touched the ground, Gi-Gyu plunged El into the monster.

“Kwaaaaaaaaaaah!!!!!!!” the lich screamed in pain.

[El successfully caused additional damage to the evil creature.]

“I knew you were the key, El!” Gi-Gyu whispered as he escaped the black orb that appeared out of nowhere.

-This evil monster is no match for me, Master.

When El announced proudly, Gi-Gyu complimented her, “I believe in you, El.”

-Tsk.

Lou was annoyed by their conversation because he was clicking his tongue like a baby.

Surprised, the lich said, “I see that you’re holding something very annoying… You who wish to become my master…”

“So you should stop fighting me and just sync with me!” Gi-Gyu shouted again as he kicked the ground. His current speed was at the Accelerate skill’s ceiling, so he was faster than ever. Gi-Gyu was storming toward the lich; in response, the lich opened his arms. Its thin bones, hidden under the black robe before, were now fully exposed.

The mixture of black and white colors looked oddly beautiful as thousands of dark arrows appeared before the monster.

“Huh!” Gi-Gyu was moving at full speed, so he couldn’t change his direction sharply. He was in midair, and because he wasn’t a tanker, he didn’t have the skill to form a shield. So, as things stood, Gi-Gyu was running straight into a volley of arrows.

At this rate, the arrows would turn him into mincemeat. In that short moment, dozens of thoughts crossed Gi-Gyu’s mind before he formed a cross by holding El and Lou together. The best thing he could do now was protect his vital spots.

“Hehehe… Die… You… human…” the lich announced creepily.

“Dammit!” Gi-Gyu swore as his sword cross faced the volley of dark arrows.

[El is banishing the evil creature’s aura.]

[Lou is absorbing this banished aura.]

“Huhhh?” The moment those arrows touched the cross, they fell like a bunch of twigs.

[Lou shall now awaken as the Emperor of Black Magic.]

“What?”

[Please offer a sacrifice for Lou to successfully become the Emperor of Black Magic.]

Then, Lou began to exude an evil aura. The lich murmured in shock, “H-how… c-could a human have…”

The lich was faceless, but Gi-Gyu could still tell how confused and shocked the monster was. After landing safely on the ground, Gi-Gyu also wondered about the system announcement. Then, Lou’s arrogant voice suddenly rang in his head.

-Did you see that?!

***

With the new announcements from the system, the situation reversed quickly.

“P-please don’t kill me…” the lich begged. Gi-Gyu followed the boss monster around the small crypt as it ran in circles to escape him.

-Hahaha! Did you see that? Did you?!

-You’re acting up, Lou.

-Idiot! This is my true identity!

Lou refused to stop chattering as the evil aura continued to waft from him. Gi-Gyu used Accelerate again to catch up to the lich. When he caught it, he plunged Lou into its bony body.

Pshhh…

“P-please let me live…” the lich begged again, shaking visibly. Gi-Gyu wondered if it was because Cannibalism was working in the background to absorb it.

[Lou is absorbing the sacrifice.]

[Lou’s stats are increasing.]

-Hahaha!

Lou laughed as if he had lost his mind. Gi-Gyu watched his sword with pity and murmured, “You’ve been so depressed lately, haven’t you, Lou?”

-You have no idea how furious I was when I watched that stupid Empress of Holy Swords becoming stronger than me!

“Huh?” Suddenly, Gi-Gyu realized something strange. He muttered, “Lou, you’re being unusually rude and callous right now. What’s with you?”

-Umm…

It seemed that Lou finally came to his senses. For a while, he didn’t speak another word. El explained,

-Lou’s just confused, Master.

“Confused about what?”

-He is…

Lou interrupted El quickly.

-Shut up! Let’s just kill the lich already. My head is pounding now.

“All right,” Gi-Gyu replied, not wanting to question Lou any further. Lou slowly absorbed the lich as the system announced.

[Lou will awaken as the Emperor of Black Magic after absorbing its sacrifice.]

[The completion of this process will take several days.]

“Lou?” Gi-Gyu called Lou’s name, but his Ego didn’t reply. Meanwhile, now nothing more than a wisp of smoke, the lich begged, “I will accept you as my master, so please…”

After Lou had absorbed most of the monster, the lich was now just sentient smoke. The lich probably thought that Gi-Gyu was urging Lou to absorb the rest of it, so it was panicking.

Gi-Gyu was concerned about Lou, but he also had to take care of the lich. He turned toward the monster and asked, “Then how do I sync with you? I guess I need to name you.”

[The gate consents to sync with you.]

[Please name the gate.]

Before the lich could answer Gi-Gyu, the system made an announcement. With a grin, Gi-Gyu murmured, “Brunheart.”

“I…I like… it…” When the lich replied, Gi-Gyu smiled, tinged with bitterness. It was a small gesture, but he hoped it would be enough to honor his old armor.

[You have successfully synced with Brunheart.]

Then, the world suddenly darkened around him.

***

Oh Tae-Shik shouted, “Everyone, get ready!”

In front of him, the Yeosu Gate was vibrating while glowing blood-red as if it would burst. Currently, hundreds of players were surrounding the gate, ready to defend the city with their lives if necessary.

Gulp.

Someone gulped audibly, a small noise at best, but it still seemed deafening to the players. Everyone was agitated and using their senses to the fullest. The number of times a gate broke in Korea could be counted on one hand, so most here had never witnessed such a devastating event.

“Any guilds nearby?” Tae-Shik asked Sung-Hoon.

“The Child Guild happened to be near us, so they’re on their way.”

“It will be too late by then! Dammit,” Tae-Shik muttered angrily. He asked, looking around with obvious anxiety, “How about the Yeosu citizens? Have they been evacuated yet?”

Sung-Hoon replied, “Yes, they have, but the reporters—”

“They obviously want to die, so just let them stay. Our priority should be our agents’ lives, not the reporters. We have already asked those pests to evacuate numerous times! Do you understand? We’re not obligated to endanger ourselves to protect them.” When Tae-Shik ordered in frustration, Sung-Hoon nodded and answered, “Yes, Sir!”

Turning toward his agents, Oh Tae-Shik announced, “Listen carefully!”

“Yes, Sir!”

“We are about to face a gate break, which hasn’t happened in a very long time! It’s a C-grade exceptional gate, but we have enough players to fight it and protect the city! Any objections?!”

“No, Sir!” the association agents answered aggressively.

“You will kill anything and everything that leaves this gate! Do you understand?” Tae-Shik asked.

“Yes, Sir!”

The players’ anticipation was palpable in the air. Tae-Shik maintained a confident facade, but his heart was overflowing with worry.

“Gi-Gyu…” When Tae-Shik whispered worriedly, Sung-Hoon reassured him, “I’m sure he’s fine. He’ll make it, so please don’t worry.”

The moment Gi-Gyu entered the gate, it became red as if it was about to explode. It had been a few days since the gate swallowed him. But a few hours ago, the gate began to vibrate alarmingly, so numerous association agents were called in.

Tae-Shik had been waiting outside the gate for days now, so he had more time to prepare for the possible break. Suddenly, the red gate began rotating while making ominous clangors.

Wee woo, wee woo, wee woo…

“Dammit…” Tae-Shik muttered in surrender. He had to accept that Gi-Gyu failed to close it.

The break seemed inevitable now.

“The gate is breaking!” Sung-Hoon shouted.

“Get ready!” Tae-Shik ordered in a loud but calm voice.

“Make sure you all survive!” the Yeosu Gate’s manager yelled encouragingly. Suddenly, the gate stopped vibrating, and the association agents tensed.

And then…

Flashhh!

A bright light exploded from the gate, releasing incredible energy.

The term gate break was used to describe the phenomenon where a gate exploded and released its monsters into the world. It was considered a disastrous event, and it was also one of the many reasons humans stopped fighting each other. [1]

“Gi-Gyu…” Tae-Shik murmured in desperation.

“Did you say my name?”

To Tae-Shik’s shock, Gi-Gyu answered his call.

1. Humanity now had a common enemy, a formidable one at that, so human wars have vanished after the appearance of the Tower and the gates. ☜

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