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Chapter 101: 40th Floor (4)

After texting his family, Tae-Shik, and Old Man Hwang, Gi-Gyu headed toward the Tower. Since his physical attributes had increased significantly, he now didn’t need much physical rest, so he informed his family that he wouldn’t return for a while this time. Instead of physical rest, what he needed was a way to relieve his psychological stress from killing so many monsters and the guilt from what happened in Yeoksam city.

Since he had taken care of his emotional burdens, he was now ready to continue ascending the Tower. As expected, he felt much more comfortable when he hunted monsters.

Many players gathered around Gi-Gyu and watched as he demolished a large herd of monsters.

“Wow, I’ve never seen a sword player like that,” one player exclaimed.

“He must be a ranker, right?” another asked in awe.

This succubi subspecies specialized in psychic attacks; usually, a group of players hunted them together. However, Gi-Gyu didn’t care about the psychic attacks and hunted these hard-to-hunt monsters alone, using just his swords.

Gi-Gyu killed a monster with each swing; this spectacle drew in even more players.

“Darkness.” When Gi-Gyu murmured, darkness fell inside the Tower.

“What the?” a spectator shouted in confusion.

“Is he using dark magic?” another asked.

“But isn’t he a sword player? Does he have a partner player nearby?” a shocked passerby asked as he looked around.

Several players of the support category tried to remove the darkness with their magic, but it was useless. They all heard the same system announcement in their ears.

[You don’t have the ability to override.]

“What the! But I used Purification with all my magic! How could this be?!” one of the nearby players shouted while the others continued to murmur in shock.

Thud!

The spectators couldn’t see anything in the darkness; they could hear the heavy but quick footsteps. This confused them even more since they should be hearing weapons clashing and such, but all they heard were gruesome squelches and squishes. Eventually, they realized it was the sound of flesh being sliced off and bones being shattered. They all imagined the ghastly massacre going under the darkness and felt their skin crawl.

“T-the darkness is finally disappearing!” one of the spectators yelled in relief.

“Let’s get outta here!” his companion replied hurriedly.

The darkness was there for but a moment, but that was enough for most. They didn’t know when the darkness might return, and they didn’t want to experience the extreme fear again. So, as the darkness receded, they got ready to leave while murmuring like flies.

“W-wait…” Suddenly, a player, who was about to leave, pointed toward where Gi-Gyu was standing.

“What’s wrong?” When another player asked in confusion, the other players nearby stared at the space and gasped, “Huh?”

Only a few minutes ago, that spot had at least several dozen monsters and a player. Now, the battleground was empty except for the blood that soaked the ground.

***

Lou asked,

-Aren’t you showing off your powers too much?

Before Gi-Gyu could answer, El and Brunheart chimed in.

-Didn’t you want to hide your identity, Master?

-I want you to become famous, Master! Famous! Famous!

“Grrr.” Even Bi growled to voice his opinion.

Gi-Gyu explained, “I wanted to hide my identity because I didn’t want to be bothered by other people.”

He sat down on a rock to rest. Some might call him a lone wolf, but he actually had his Egos to talk with; he liked that very much.

Gi-Gyu continued, “That’s why everything, including my ranker registration, was carried out in secret.”

He smiled and added, “But after much thinking, I realized that revealing my identity might work to my advantage.”

-Hmm…

-If that’s what you wish, Master.

Lou and El murmured. Meanwhile, Brunheart continued to speak about some nonsense in his adorable voice.

‘Besides, Ironshield and my other enemies already know about me. There is no longer any reason for me to hide,’ Gi-Gyu thought. Also, he was now powerful enough that he didn’t feel the necessity to stay in hiding. As he clenched his fists a few times, he realized his current strength was well beyond what he had a month ago.

‘I am growing at an incredible speed.’ Gi-Gyu still couldn’t level up, but his incredible attributes, special skills, and unique ability to sync saw exponential growth. Moreover, his growth wouldn’t halt here—he would become even stronger. If all players could improve half as fast as him…

‘The Tower would’ve been conquered by now.’ Gi-Gyu thought. He didn’t care how powerful the lords of the Tower and demons were: He was confident he could defeat them all if he had another 23 years.

“I’ll slowly reveal myself to the world. Well, I guess it’ll be more accurate to say that I will no longer hide,” Gi-Gyu said to Egos and himself. “And I don’t want to be the only one becoming stronger. I want to help everyone around me who has the same goal as I do. However, doing that would tell my enemies how powerful I am and who my friends are.”

***

Two men sat at the table drinking tea.

“It has been too long,” one murmured.

“Old Man, you gotta admit that’s impressive,” the other replied.

There was a clear age gap between the two men, but the resemblance was undeniable. The duo was none other than Oh Tae-Gu, the current KPA president, and Oh Tae-Shik, his son and heir.

Three days ago, a rumor began floating among players. It was about a good-looking man with black hair. Many claimed they had seen the man, the suspected new ranker, even before the rumors began, and he was powerful even then. But now, he was on a whole different level.

This man, of course, was Gi-Gyu.

Tae-Gu took a sip of his tea and murmured, “Showing off is a part of normal human nature and desire.”

He was an elderly man, but his body seemed like a solid steel block. Tae-Gu’s strength was as obvious as flat-earthers’ stupidity, so the small cup in his hand looked comical.

“What is it that you want to say?” When Tae-Shik asked in annoyance, Tae-Gu smiled and replied, “He had been suppressing his true nature until now. Actually, I don’t think he is revealing his strength for selfish reasons. It’s most likely for others.”

Tae-Shik frowned at Tae-Gu’s cryptic words and grumbled, “You’re not making any sense.”

Tae-Gu smiled and looked at his son. “Should I even call him human now?”

Tae-Shik’s frown deepened as he realized the innuendo behind his father’s comment. “If you’re going to talk nonsense, I’m leaving. I don’t have time for this.”

Tae-Shik was currently investigating the Caravan Guild. Thanks to Lucifer’s involvement, the investigation was going accordingly. Since he had no time to spare, he hadn’t even been able to visit Gi-Gyu’s mother, Su-Jin. So he felt incredibly annoyed that his father was here wasting his precious time.

Rattle.

Tae-Gu placed his teacup on the table and asked, “Whose side are you on?”

Tae-Shik looked straight into his father’s eyes and replied, “I’m not on anyone’s side. I’m just doing what I want.”

Done with this conversation, Tae-Shik stormed out.

“Tsk,” Tae-Gu clicked his tongue as he watched the door. Closing his eyes, he quietly muttered, “If you’re that soft-hearted, you shouldn’t be after my position.”

***

“Haa. That took so long,” Gi-Gyu sighed deeply and murmured. He was finally close to the long-awaited 40th floor. Some time had passed since he visited the Cain and Morningstar-Child guilds. His goal was to climb the Tower as quickly as possible, but since he couldn’t give up on increasing Lou's stats, he had no choice but to take his time killing the monsters.

“This nervousness I’m feeling… This proves it.” With Oberon in its bracelet form, Gi-Gyu could now see the goosebumps on the back of his hands.

An ominous feeling, akin to what he felt when he entered the 30th floor, was slowly engulfing him. This feeling was partly why Gi-Gyu took the time to ready himself properly.

“El,” Gi-Gyu called out to his Ego.

-Yes, Master.

“Are you sure you’ll be okay?” When Gi-Gyu asked, El went silent.

‘The 40th floor.’

Gi-Gyu suspected that he might end up facing El’s physical there. One of the reasons he thought this was what he saw on the screen.

[El’s first evolution]

[El’s token 0/1]

[Ego fragment 10/10]

[Egofied souls 3/3]

[Holy sword 0/1]

The conditions for El’s evolution appeared when she reached level 100. The list had some similarities with Lou’s evolution list, but there was one difference: The demand for a holy sword.

“And I think the token is like her physical body...” Gi-Gyu trailed off. He wanted El to confirm his guesses, but El didn’t say anything about the 40th floor. If this were Lou, Gi-Gyu would’ve forced him to talk. But it was rare for El to choose to be unhelpful, so he decided to wait patiently.

“What should I do about the holy sword?” Even if Gi-Gyu could find El’s token on the 40th floor, he would still need a holy sword. His one holy sword, Nine, was now an evil sword and with Old Man Hwang at the moment.

So, where could Gi-Gyu find a holy sword?

“Well, there is Ironshield, the player with the hundred swords, and…” Gi-Gyu thought of the last name but didn’t dare to say it.

‘Lee Sun-Ho.’

“But I’m not ready yet.” Gi-Gyu wasn’t confident he could defeat any of these players now. He had to delay El’s evolution until he could find others with holy swords. Gi-Gyu believed there had to be more than one way to accomplish this.

The Yeoksam incident taught him an important lesson: One should never be impatient. Impatience was the poison that could ruin every plan. Besides, revenge was a dish best served cold.

“Let’s do one more round of hunting before we move on,” Gi-Gyu announced. Lou still hadn’t reached his blood absorption limit for the 39th-floor monsters, so he began hunting again, determined to be fully prepared for the 40th floor.

***

Have you ever seen an utterly white room? The floor, the walls, the ceiling—everything white. Strangely, this room didn’t have a door. Let alone a door, this room didn’t even have a window or a small hole.

“Haa…” A man sat in the lotus position in the middle of the room. With his inhales and exhales, he controlled the movement of his magic. There was no air in the room, but he was breathing through magic. As he breathed, his pale face slowly turned pink and healthy.

After a while, he opened his eyes wide. As he did, blue and white glares filled the room. A non-player would’ve burned just from looking at this light because it held such intense power. By the time the glow disappeared, the man was standing on the floor.

“Hmm.” The man quietly studied his body and murmured, “Not bad.”

The man was Lee Sun-Ho. Through a deal with Lucifer, he gained an elixir bottle. He had been fighting a long battle to regain his healthy shell, but stopping the corruption seemed impossible. The only thing he could do was slow down the process.

“Lucifer… Was she right?” Just as Lucifer claimed, it seemed healing his shell would be difficult.

Still, he had no choice but to take the “slowing down” option. If he didn’t slow it down, then…

Throb.

Suddenly, Lee Sun-Ho felt a sharp pain on the right side of his head. He was so powerful that he was almost immune to pain, yet this throbbing made him feel like his head was splitting in half.

“Get lost,” When Lee Sun-Ho ordered with a deep frown, the pain surprisingly disappeared.

“Haa…” Lee Sun-Ho’s deep sigh echoed in the room.

***

Thanks to his gate, Gi-Gyu no longer had to carry a bag when he hunted. It took him over a day, but Lou was finally done absorbing the 39th-floor monsters’ blood. Since he had already told his family and friends that he might be away for long, he didn’t worry about the time. Even if something happened to him, Gi-Gyu felt assured that his family would be taken care of.

“I’m ready now.”

Gi-Gyu opened the door that led to the 40th floor.

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