"Yul," a swordsman who appeared to be their leader said. He was handsome, with a strong physique, and he carried a sword at his waist.
Yul looked at them, his lip curled. "What is it? Do we still have anything to talk about?"
"How did you…”
"I don’t need to tell you how I got out, do I?"
The man couldn’t say anything, and his eyes were filled with confusion. The burden they’d abandoned in the boss room had shown up alive. He didn’t know what to make of the situation.
Yul didn't hide his hostility, although he wasn’t stupid enough to reveal his murderous intent. Even though he was seething with anger, he knew that power dictated everything, and he didn’t have any at the moment. Ignoring them was the only thing he could do. "I don't know what you’re going to say, but please, fuck off. I know you don’t even want to look at me because just looking at you also makes me sick. So, let's just pretend we don't know each other until the Tutorial is over. As you know, I don't have the power to do anything to you guys anyway, right?”
But despite his rambling, the four of them just stood there, hesitating. They showed no sign of leaving Yul alone and looked at each other.
"What the hell are you guys waiting for?" Yul scowled at them as his patience ran out.
At last, prompted by the glares of the other three, the leader bit his lower lip and suddenly bowed from his waist. "We want to apologize for what happened."
Yul’s expression became completely twisted. "What is this bullshit?”
"Also, I have a favor to ask you.”
"Could you keep what happened a secret?"
"We're going to...Sorry, I can't tell you the details, but please don't talk about what happened with anyone else. We’re begging you."
The other three also bowed.
"Please do us this favor."
"For old time’s sake, think of what we went through together."
Yul kept his mouth shut as he looked at them bow down. The incident played like a video in his mind. Their team had struggled for several days to pass through the boss room, and ultimately, they told Yul that he was useless and used him as bait. He’d begged them and cried out for help, asking them to reconsider, but they didn’t even look back as they went ahead.
When he’d first met them in the waiting room of Section A, he thought he had met great teammates. They were all polite and quite skilled. Although he had been repeatedly warned by the elders of his family that the Tower was a dangerous world, these new friends had convinced him otherwise. But his assumptions had been shattered. "I don't know what the hell you're talking about. Get the hell out of here. I don't want to see your faces anymore." Yul quickly turned his back to them.
The leader, Kaen, was vexed and bit his lower lip again. 'This won’t do. If I leave things like this, our opportunity might vanish into thin air.' He wrestled with his complicated feelings. When they made it out of Section A, he’d thought the hellishness was finally over. Using Yul to distract the copper scarecrows troubled him, but he believed that they had no other choice and that it was necessary in order to save everyone else.
The biggest consideration was that Yul could only read the flow of mana. He didn’t contribute much to the team and losing him didn’t have an impact on their strength at all. In fact, Kaen even believed that his actions would be forgiven if he could save more people thanks to Yul’s sacrifice. And so, Kaen led his teammates forward to look for the man called Bild in the waiting room of Section B.
He was a player who had tried to recruit them before the Tutorial had started. "We’re called Arangdan. I like the look in your eyes. Usually, people with that kind of look show great prospects. Why don’t you join our team? I'll be at the waiting room of Section B, look for me if you want to join us."
At first, they thought he was some kind of weirdo and didn’t think much of him, but they later found out that Arangdan was a big name in the Tutorial. It was a top clan that had dominated the Tutorial for a long time and even had connections in the Tower. It was a vigilante group that had formed to prevent chaos in the Tutorial. They tried to prevent tricks and cheating, and they did their best to create a place where players could play fair. Because of this, their member selection was strictly managed. They examined the backgrounds of each candidate meticulously to see if they’d done any crimes, like extorting or robbing people, and so on.
Because of this, Yul’s sudden appearance was like a sword dangling over Kaen and his teammates. 'Damn it, if Yul spills the secret somewhere…!' He was supposed to meet Bild this evening, and they’d already said that Yul had willingly sacrificed himself in order to save them. 'But what if he spoils our plan? Everything will be over. There's a rumor that Arangdan is under the direct control of a giant guild in the Tower. If we lose their favor now, we'll be in real trouble.’
Some stories even said that Arangdan had been created by a guild in the Tower to find potential recruits. Kaen didn't want to miss the opportunity, but despite their apology, Yul didn’t seem to be ready to forgive them.
‘If I just…’Kaen gritted his teeth, his eyes filling with malice. Betrayal was only difficult the first time. The second time was a lot smoother. Kaen signaled his teammates with his eyes to help provide cover so that no one would see what he was doing. Fortunately, no one was looking their way. ‘It'll be easy to get rid of the corpse. Bild doesn't know what Yul looks like anyway. It’ll be enough to say that he died from the injuries he sustained in the boss room.’
His teammates were puzzled and worried about going this far, but they had no choice as Kaen continued to signal them. Kaen carefully moved his hand to the hilt of his sword. He was going to finish this quickly.
"It is said that there is a clan called Arangdan in the Tutorial that reports to the Cheonghwado. And not just that, the Cheonghwado tends to recruit newbies from Arangdan. But they're so particular about their members that they only want people with spotless records even if they personally aren’t so squeaky clean themselves.” The sudden voice that spoke behind him startled Kaen. "What? Argh!" He tried to pull his sword out but screamed instead as a terrible pain spread across his hand. His right hand dropped to the floor, gushing blood. "My hand! My haaand!" Kaen screamed as he held his wrist.
It was only then that Yul noticed that something strange was going on, and he quickly turned around. The other teammates drew their swords, their eyes filled with confusion, and pointed them at Yeon-woo, who was shaking blood off his dagger. "If you’re malicious enough to stab someone in the back, you should be prepared to lose one of your hands."
* * *
Underneath the mask, Yeon-woo was frowning. ‘Why did I get myself involved in this shit? I feel like crap now.’ He should have ignored it and moved onto Section B, but his feet wouldn’t move from the spot. An image of Yul kept appearing in his mind, and he could see the young man being betrayed by his teammates. ‘Betrayal…’Yul’s face kept overlapping with his brother’s face.
Yul had been betrayed and abandoned by his teammates, just as his brother had been. And not only that, the same betrayers even went out of their way to look for him again. Their intention was clear—usually, these kinds of people didn’t want to leave behind any evidence that could be used against them. Yeon-woo knew this too well, which was why he lingered to see what they were planning to do and witnessed such a despicable sight. He wanted to rinse his eyes with water.
"My hand! My hand! You son of a bitch! How dare you?" Kaen cried out, still holding onto his stump, his face contorted. He stared at Yeon-woo with a menacing look. "I'm going to kill you!”
His other teammates continued to point their swords at Yeon-woo, but they didn’t rush forward. No one had noticed anything until Kaen’s hand was already on the ground.
'He’s an expert!' Cold sweat streamed down their backs. They knew that Yeon-woo had saved Yul, but they thought he only helped him since he was headed to Section B anyway. Besides, they thought they could take him down easily since they outnumbered him. But they were wrong.
Yeon-woo smiled indifferently. "Try as hard as you can."
"You bastard!" Kaen bolted forward, his eyes filled with madness. He drew his sword with his left hand and swung it at Yeon-woo’s neck.
"Kaen!" His teammates called out his name in surprise. They weren’t sure how skilled Yeon-woo was. Also, if Kaen clashed with Yeon-woo, their admission to Arangdan might be compromised. But none of their words reached Kaen's ears. He was lost in his desire for revenge.
Yeon-woo strode forward, thinking about how he would deal with them. They were the kind of people who had no qualms about sticking a knife into someone’s back, but they couldn’t stand being stabbed themselves. He was definitely feeling shitty.
Yeon-woo dodged the sword coming for his head and moved to Kaen’s back. He stretched out his arm and wrapped it around Kaen’s arm in a split second. Then, he lightly twisted Kaen’s arm backwards.
Crack! Kaen’s left arm bent at a strange angle. "Aargh!" Unconcerned, Yeon-woo did a flip with his arm still wrapped around him and climbed onto Kaen’s shoulder. It was an agile move just like a cat’s. Then, with a hard, downward kick, he broke Kaen's shoulder. Crunch!
"Y-you son of a bitch!"
"Let him go!"
Clang! The sword fell down powerlessly to the floor. Kaen couldn't withstand the pain and knelt on the ground. His teammates still couldn’t approach him. Yeon-woo was too nimble, and he was sitting on Kaen’s shoulders.
Yeon-woo twisted Kaen’s broken arm behind his back, placed one foot over his spine and put his weight on it, threatening to destroy Kaen’s backbone if they approached any closer.
"Aargh!” Kaen's eyes were bloodshot, as though they would pop out at any moment.
"Come any closer, and I'll make sure he will never be able to walk again." Underneath the mask, Yeon-woo's eyes gleamed coldly.