“Nest, nest, nest.”
Looking up information on his tablet PC, An Jaehyun sipped on his coffee. Thanks to the caffeine, An Jaehyun’s slow head began to roll.
‘So there’s 3 potential areas.’
Bring an egg from a nest!
Although it sounded like an absurd quest, An Jaehyun had his ways from his long time experience with Warlord.
First, he narrowed down the potential areas. Ahimbree was currently staying in Bangtz Castle. Then, it was likely that the quest area was located near Bangtz Castle.
From here, the words ‘egg’ and ‘nest’ were extremely helpful hints. The target monster was likely to be birds, reptiles, or insects.
“Cave Snake Cliff, Lizard Swamp, Sawtooth Ant Tunnel.”
Amongst numerous hunting grounds near Bangtz Castle, only three fit the requirements. Of course, these were only the known hunting grounds, and it is possible for there to be hidden hunting grounds. In the first place, players did not disclose the best hunting grounds to the public. Whether it be guilds or players, they used whatever means necessary to monopolize good hunting grounds.
Luckily, An Jaehyun already knew where to go.
‘Cave Snakes are over level 50, and you have to be around level 40 to hunt Sawtooth Ants.’
The Cave Snake Cliff was a level 50 hunting ground, and the Sawtooth Ant Tunnel was a level 40 hunting ground. Even if one of them was Ahimbree’s testing place, An Jaehyun couldn’t do anything about it now.
Then, there was only one choice left.
‘It has to be the Lizard Swamp.’
That would be his next destination. It was a place a level 30 monster called Green Lizards appeared.
The hunting ground itself wasn’t bad. Given An Jaehyun’s abilities, although Lizard Warriors may be difficult, Green Lizards weren’t a problem. Plus, lizards weren’t monsters players preferred. They were rather difficult to kill for average players. This was because they fought like human beings, just like werewolves. Not only that, but they also carried weapons and wore armors.
It was possible to kill them if need be, but no players went out of their way to make it more difficult for themselves.
On the other hand, they were good targets if one knew the hunting method and had the skills to back it up. Even if it weren’t for a test, it would have been a fine hunting ground for An Jaehyun.
As such, it could be said that he was killing two birds with one stone. He would be leveling up and investigating the quest.
The problem was filming.
‘If it was Ahimbree’s quest area…’
Any videos from the Lizard Swamp hunting ground was likely to be investigated.
Also, Hyrkan had already revealed receiving the Rising Star title through his video. Someone confirmed to have the Rising Star title appearing at what’s expected to be Ahimbree’s testing ground? It was a good scenario to be suspected.
Even back then, An Jaehyun only slid by because he was wearing the Subjugation Association’s default clothes. If he were wearing his hahoe mask, he would have been suspected whether he accepted the left handshake or not.
‘Those shitheads are making this harder than it has to be.’
In truth, An Jaehyun had not expected to be worrying about such things. He was fine with hyenas. In fact, it would have been stranger for there to be no hyenas considering the scale of the quest he was doing.
However, what was on his tail weren’t hyenas. What was worse was that An Jaehyun didn’t know whether they were lions or tigers.
‘Who are they?’
One thing was for sure; they were predators.
‘White Mamba set… there’s no way he’s just a high-leveled player. He has to be a Ranker.’
But he didn’t know what species they were. It wasn’t just because An Jaehyun couldn’t remember them.
Looking at just the options, it would be hard to say that the White Mamba set was an incomparably amazing set. However, 3 guilds had collaborated to kill the White Mamba, and a famous designer had been hired to make the set. Same bags would have different pricing if one had a brand name logo on it.
Usually, items like these weren’t sold at a known price. Guilds would give out these items as presents to their sponsors or friends, or they would keep it as a symbolic uniform.
In other words, it was easy to trace back.
However, that man couldn’t be traced back. Someone wearing such a pompous set didn’t leave any trace of himself online. If he came from a famous guild, An Jaehyun could relax and act accordingly, but it wasn’t the case now.
That was why An Jaehyun was so excessively cautious.
His intuition was telling him so.
‘There’s no way someone who tests people like that has a clean background.’
If he were part of the Top 30 Guilds or forces that rivaled them, he wouldn’t have acted as he had.
He would have revealed his guild and offered up a trade. Even that should have been done by a messenger, not a Ranker. High-level players invested most of their playtime in hunting. It was a waste of time to talk and negotiate with suspicious players.
‘There’s no way he’s from the Top 30 Guilds. I’ve never seen any of the Top 30 Guilds act like that.’
From An Jaehyun’s standards, he wasn’t from the Top 30 Guilds.
‘He’s part of some organization, though…’
But he was sure that he was part of an organization. The other player who had been hiding while Hyrkan was talking was proof.
With those unfit to be part of Warlord’s world going after him, An Jaehyun’s headaches were only justified.
Irritated, An Jaehyun scratched his head.
‘Why do I have to worry about this? I have enough on my hands with just the game alone. I’m going to go crazy because of bitches like that Choi Sulyeon. Where did these weird shitheads come from?’
Nothing is easy in this world.
An Jaehyun once again remembered the saying.
This hunting ground that most players avoided was located north of Bangtz Castle. Based on travel speed of most players, it was situated about 5 hours away. It wasn’t a short distance. No one was interested in doing a cross country run without actual gaming.
It was the same for Hyrkan. It wasn’t likely to run into a pleasant surprise just because he rushed to the Lizard Swamp. It was better to take care of things on the way there.
Hyrkan’s current action of fiddling with a Skeleton Warrior’s head was also part of ‘taking care of things on the way there.’
‘So I just have to draw it here?’
After messing around with the head for a little bit, Hyrkan used magic. He drew a cross-shaped seal on the back of a Skeleton Warrior’s head, and the cross made its appearance with a scarlet glow.
‘Next, I have to activate the magic.’
It was, of course, the Unique magic skill, Madness Helm.
After drawing the seal, Hyrkan slapped the Skeleton Warrior on the back of its head. The Skeleton Warrior then stepped forward, scratching its head as it stared at Hyrkan.
At that moment,
Hyrkan’s left fist flew like an arrow towards the Skeleton Warrior’s head. It was a perfect jab. Delivered with absolute conciseness, it looked as if his fist moved separately from his body.
Hyrkan didn’t just throw a jab. He stepped forward and closed their distance as he did.
Even so, the Skeleton Warrior tilted its head and dodged the jab. As it did, the Skeleton Warrior immediately distanced itself from Hyrkan. Watching this happen, Hyrkan let out a light smile.
‘I know I’m the one who taught it, but it grew well.’
In the past, it would simply get hit. Even if it did dodge, it only dodged the jab.
Now, however, it even distanced itself and prepared for the next to come.
Not to mention, Hyrkan’s blows were much faster than when he was level 10. Being able to react to such a fast attack showed how far it had come. It was the result of Hyrkan training them for over 30 minutes every day.
‘Will it maintain its evasion even with the Madness Helm buff?’
One could tell from just its name that Madness Helm was far from the word ‘calm.’ Once a Skeleton Warrior received this buff, even a complete newbie would guess that it would turn aggressive.
For most summons, excessive aggression was a merit. However, it was different for Hyrkan’s summons. It was fine to turn aggressive, but it had to maintain Hyrkan’s teachings. If it were only aggressive, it would have gone back to square one.
Immediately afterward, the scarlet seal on the back of the Skeleton Warrior’s head glowed.
Along with a strange sound, two horns the size of adult male’s fists sprouted out from the Skeleton Warrior’s head. The blue flames in its eyes also turned red as they grew. The flames blazed, seemingly about to burst out of its eyes at any moment.
Finally, the Skeleton Warrior opened its mouth. It looked like it couldn’t control its blood boiling, though such a thing should be impossible.
Watching the Skeleton Warrior, Hyrkan smiled. Then, he pulled out his sword from the scabbard on his waist.
With the sound of a sword being pulled out, Hyrkan charged towards the Skeleton Warrior with all his power. He closed the distance in one breath and swung his sword with the intent of severing the Skeleton Warrior’s head.
The sword made a crescent trace as it swung through the air.
The Skeleton Warrior dodged the swing by lightly tilting its head back. Hyrkan didn’t watch the scene. The moment the Skeleton Warrior tilted its head back, Hyrkan used the swing’s centrifugal force to spin his body. Using his left foot as a pivot, his right leg drew a circle. Hyrkan’s right foot approached the Skeleton Warrior’s body with a heavy sound.
The Skeleton Warrior dodged the spinning back round kick by bending its body backward. After tilting its head and bending its body backward, the Skeleton Warrior straightened the bow-bent body once again.
Watching this, Hyrkan stopped his movements.
What entered Hyrkan’s eyes was the appearance of a Skeleton Warrior that did not falter back and stood its ground.
‘It won’t back off?’
Knowing no retreat on a battlefield*. [TN: Korean idiom]
Although it would evade attacks, the Skeleton Warrior was determined never to retreat.
Watching this, a big smile appeared on Hyrkan’s face.
‘This could be useful…’
As the popularity of Warlord increased, its guilds, including the Top 30 Guilds, struggled to recruit more people. With this shortage of manpower, it went without saying that guilds raced to recruit promising players. [TN: ‘promising player’ here and in other places is the same word used for the ‘Rising Star’ in the Rising Star title.]
Lately, the competition to recruit these ‘promising players’ was fiercer than ever. What caused this were the words ‘1 year anniversary.’
In Warlord, it was difficult for latecomers to catch up to the front-runners. In such situation, the words ‘1 year anniversary’ served as a mental cutline. It is impossible for anyone starting after the 1 year anniversary to catch up to the Rankers! Such was what all Rankers believed.
In other words, promising players recruited before this 1 year anniversary were the last rookies who could challenge the Rankers.
Such was the background story behind why Choi Sulyeon was currently looking through a list of players with potential. She looked over the selected players’ battle videos and history. Most were players who were known to be skilled in other games and had now gotten used to VR games.
Their talent and potential couldn’t be called bad.
“There’s over 10 million people in the VR game world now. How come there isn’t a single useful one?’
Choi Sulyeon was unsatisfied with the list of promising players. She didn’t look satisfied either.
In truth, it wasn’t her job to go over promising players one by one. Although she watched YouTube videos from time to time, it was more for a change of pace than for recruiting promising players. With that being the case, she couldn’t be happy with the current situation.
No one entered her eyes. Looking for a gem in a pile of stones was only worthwhile if a gem was found. With nothing but stones, it was hard to find the motivation.
In response to Choi Sulyeon’s thorny complaint, her secretary, Park Suji, quickly worked her brain.
‘Young miss is more annoyed than usual. She must have a standard in mind.’
As a secretary of 5 years, Park Suji quickly figured out Choi Sulyeon’s mind.
“Is there someone you have in mind?”
At her question, Choi Sulyeon knit her brows.
Did she have someone in mind? She did.
Except, the skilled players in her mind belonged to other guilds.
Desiring them was no different than desiring bread within a painting. The money wasn’t the problem. Amongst the Top 30 Guilds was a gentleman’s agreement. At the core of this agreement was player transfer. It was fine if it was something both sides wanted, but a one-sided theft meant war.
But other than these skilled players, there was no one she had in mind.
‘What was it?’
She remembered a face. No, it was hard to say ‘face.’ After all, she had never seen his face.
There was only one thing she knew.
Park Suji tilted her head, while Choi Sulyeon finally understood the cause of her irritation.
“There’s a guy wearing a hahoe mask who uploads videos to YouTube. Look him up. Get rid of the data for these other guys.”
With just one clue, Park Suji nodded her head.
“By the way, did the Helpers respond yet?”
“No, not yet.”
“What an amazing bunch. The audacity on those guys… oh well, we’ll contact them first. Ask them exactly when and who they’ll dispatch. We’ve got a raid soon, so get an answer as soon as possible. If they’re late, you can threaten them with my name.”
“Also, I’m going to work out in 30 minutes so tell the trainer to get ready. I’ll eat afterward, what’s the menu?”
“It’s Korean beef steak salad. The coffee is the Jamaica Blue Mountain you wanted.”
With that, Choi Sulyeon’s complexion changed. She made serious, grave expression.
“He hasn’t said anything.”
Hasn’t said anything. Hearing that, a slight smile came out of her stiff expression.
“Looks like father and mother aren’t saying anything since Warlord’s getting so popular. Feels like just yesterday they tried to force me into marriage just because I was spending some money on a game.”
After reminiscing for a bit, Choi Sulyeon got up from her seat. As she was wearing her thin pajamas, her glamorous, model-like figure showed. Seeing her figure and look, her secretary, Park Suji, felt envy from the bottom of her heart.
‘Life sure is unfair. I don’t know who it’s going to be, but whoever marries the miss in the future must have saved a country in his past life.’