Crash! Like the ripples produced by a stone thrown into a calm lake, waves of scorching wind blew everything in their path away. It was hard to even remain standing, and they would be burned if they continued to be exposed to the heat.
Yeon-woo and Kahn quickly found rocks and tree stumps to hide behind. The heat was drying up the trees and setting them on fire. Steam rose from the rocks. Doyle backed off behind a shield of flies.
'This is getting nuts.' Yeon-woo frowned as he peeked at Hargan, who was releasing Heat Waves as he ate Taragan’s body in a reverential manner. It looked almost like a sacred ritual. Crunch! Crack! With each bite, Hargan's body underwent noticeable changes. The intensity and the temperature of the Heat Waves also rose.
‘Second phase?’ It was an unexpected message. Yeon-woo frowned angrily. Multi-phases were only present in strong boss monsters in the upper floors of the Tower. But a boss monster from the Tutorial was displaying this—perhaps his resentment was too overpowering.
At that moment, Yeon-woo noticed Kahn looking his way, clearly asking him what he was going to do next. Their target, Hargan’s Crown, was already in Doyle’s hands, so they could just escape the dungeon although it wouldn’t be easy. 'He’ll follow us no matter where we go. Besides, it won’t be easy to run away from him because of the Heat Wave.'
Hargan’s Lair and the surrounding forest were turning into ashes. Fiery sparks landed on pieces of parched wood, spreading the fire even more. In addition to that, strong gusts of wind impeded their escape. Kahn’s brows were knitted. Perhaps he had the same thoughts as Yeon-woo as he gave Yeon-woo a meaningful look.
Yeon-woo couldn’t think of anything they could try and he was about to shake his head when he hesitated. An idea suddenly occurred to him. ‘Even if we don’t do something, we’re going to die. We might as well give it a try.' Yeon-woo's mind raced, and just as he was wondering how he could communicate his plan when—
- Ah, ah…hyung, can you hear me?
Yeon-woo jerked his head trying to find the source of the voice that came out of nowhere, but he could only see a fingernail-sized bug buzzing around his head. The bug landed onto Yeon-woo's right shoulder, and Yeon-woo narrowed his eyes. "Is this you, Doyle?"
- Hehe. That's a relief. I was wondering if this would work. I can hear your voice, too.
"You have a bug that can deliver voices?”
- It’s called a mind-conveyance bug, and it helps deliver its owner’s thoughts. But, the details don’t really matter, think of it in a way that makes you comfortable.
Yeon-woo silently nodded.
- By the way, you have a plan, right?
Yeon-woo smirked a little. Doyle’s bug had appeared at the right moment. Just as he’d expected, Doyle had noticed right away that Yeon-woo had a plan and made contact with him. "Can you tell Kahn about this plan?"
- If you want me to just deliver the message, then yes.
"Okay. That’ll do." Yeon-woo started to speak.
* * *
Rumble! Hargan finally finished his ritual and slowly rose. Taragan's body was no longer there, and now, Hargan was now three meters tall, as big as Taragan had been. He held his scimitar in one hand and Taragan’s club in the other, roaring violently. Roar! The whole forest trembled as if it were about to collapse. "Human! Show yourself! Human!” He looked around with his blazing eyes.
Thump! Thump! The earth shook as the Heat Wave grew even more intense. Steam leaked out of the ground, which was boiling from the extreme temperature. "Human! if you don't come out, I will find you!" Hargan grimaced and glared at the rubble where his lair had once stood and his wife and children had met their deaths. He was about to rush towards the rubble when Yeon-woo suddenly appeared from behind a rock.
As he climbed on top of the rock, he stuck out his finger and made a beckoning gesture at Hargan. "Try me."
"I will kill you!" Hargan kicked the ground with his feet and propelled himself towards Yeon-woo, the earth quaking under him. The Heat Wave blew in all directions, and flames surged from underground, filling the air with an oppressive sensation. Yeon-woo’s skin almost dried up and burned from the heat that accompanied Hargan, but he stayed still, keeping a close watch on Hargan through narrowed eyes. In that instant, something very thin started weaving itself near his heart. For the first time, mana was acting on its own initiative to protect its owner and invoke his skills.
Time around Yeon-woo slowed—to be specific, his maximized concentration accelerated his thought process, making everything except for his own consciousness seem to slow down. Yeon-woo could now examine the approaching Hargan and the Heat Waves surrounding him. Although his brain would normally have been under great pressure, the changes caused by the Flame Heart and Frost Crest helped him endure the pain.
Yeon-woo cast another skill. The mana flowing inside his body gathered around his eyes, and his pupils transformed into vertical slits.
Yeon-woo quickly glanced at his surroundings, which brimmed with imperfections: Hargan, the Heat Waves, the flames. Yeon-woo made his move and threw himself at Hargan. It looked suicidal, but Yeon-woo managed to use his dagger to slice along the imperfections in the flames. He cleaved through the Heat Wave, and a diagonal fault line appeared from one end to the other. The top part of the Heat Wave seemed to slide down the slope of the line. Whoosh! The fire blocking Yeon-woo's path was suddenly put out. Split in half, the Heat Wave brushed past him. It was an unbelievable sight.
"Humaaan!" Hargan dismissed this as a coincidence and swung his scimitar ceaselessly. With every swing, pillars of flame gushed out from under him, and gales of Heat Waves swept across the ground.
Swish! Swish! However, Yeon-woo slashed into their imperfections a few times and easily tore apart the Heat Waves. It almost looked as though the flames were intentionally avoiding Yeon-woo, and eventually, he reached Hargan and collided with him.
Clang! After obtaining Taragan’s power, Hargan had grown even more destructive. The scimitar almost severed Yeon-woo but stopped right at Yeon-woo’s brow. A tiny crack formed in the middle of the scimitar where it had clashed with Yeon-woo’s dagger. It was the imperfection. The dagger then started chiseling into the crack. Although it could not break the scimitar, it was enough to narrow the gap in strength between them. That alone was already a tremendous success.
“Aargh!” As if he had lost patience, Hargan roared loudly and put even more strength into his scimitar. Once again, a wave of hot wind stormed across the lair. Yeon-woo avoided a battle using physical strength. He dodged left as he parried the attack to his right. The scimitar struck the ground futilely.
Hargan stumbled briefly and suddenly, Kahn and Doyle jumped in as if they had been waiting for this moment. Kahn dashed past Hargan, slicing his ankle. Doyle detonated a series of insect bombs made of flamebugs.
"You insects!" Being made a fool of by mere humans angered Hargan even more, and he roughly pulled out his scimitar and held it high in the air. It was the position required to cast Heat Wave.
Clang! Seeing this, Yeon-woo barged in and severed the corresponding imperfection.
"How dare you!" Hargan tried to attack Yeon-woo once again, and at the same time, Kahn and Doyle rushed to attack Hargan.
Clang! Clang! The three of them attacked Hargan using the same tactic over and over. Whenever Yeon-woo interrupted a Heat Wave, Kahn and Doyle would watch for a chance to attack, and when Hargan moved to catch them, Yeon-woo would rush back from behind to distract him.
As a result, Hargan’s attention kept switching among the three of them as his skill kept getting interrupted in the middle of casting. In the meantime, his wounds continued to accumulate and he was quickly losing stamina. However, Yeon-woo’s party couldn’t relax just yet. If they slipped even a tiny bit, it would be all over for them. They had to keep focused until the very end. Their fatigue was also building up, and they had to cope through sheer mental strength.
"I will not forgive you! I have to avenge Taragan!” However, at some point, Hargan's attacks began to slow. The temperature around him also noticeably cooled. "Avenge Taragan! Have to avenge…my babies…” His voice also sounded weary.
Just then, Yeon-woo moved. 'Now!' Snikt! Yeon-woo slid in between Hargan's legs and sliced his ankle, severing an artery. Hargan stumbled heavily. If he weren’t so exhausted from their attacks, he would’ve steadied himself right away. Instead, he had to stick his sword into the ground to support himself.
In the meantime, Yeon-woo jumped on his shoulder and stretched out his left hand. Black energy gathered in his palm. It suddenly swung wide open, revealing layers of serrated teeth. Yeon-woo shoved them right into Hargan’s neck, which was already full of wounds. It was his fourth time using a skill during the fight with Hargan. "Devour.”
[Bathory’s Vampiric Sword]
The serrated teeth made a terrible, nightmarish shriek.
"Let go! Let go!" Hargan tried to struggle free as he felt his soul being torn apart. He shook his body violently to get rid of Yeon-woo, but Kahn and Doyle took the chance to sever Hargan’s hand at his wrist, and they stabbed other vital points in order to restrain his movements.
[You have absorbed vitality and energy.]
[Your strength has increased by 3 points.]
[Your dexterity has increased by 2 points.]
[Bathory’s Vampiric Sword skill proficiency has increased. 5.4%]
Thanks to Hargan’s enormous amount of vitality, numerous messages filled up Yeon-woo’s retina.
"I will kill you no matter what!" But when he realized that death was upon him, Hargan poured out all his last remaining energy. Fire raged along his skin and soon engulfed Yeon-woo. Whoosh!
"Cain!" The intensity of the flames even made Kahn and Doyle stop their attacks and fall back. They could only watch Yeon-woo, who was still stuck to Hargan, with great worry. Despite the searing pain, Yeon-woo pushed the teeth deeper into Hargan’s neck. He used the energy he extracted to heal himself and endure longer. Finally, Hargan fell on one knee. He tried to stand up using his scimitar as support but Yeon-woo’s serrated teeth swallowed his will. Hargan’s hand slipped off the hilt, and he collapsed. "I have to…avenge Taragan...avenge our babies..." He finally closed his eyes.
[You have slain the second boss monster, Hargan (Lizardmen King). Additional karma will be provided according to your contribution to the raid.]
[You have acquired 2,000 karma.]
[You have made an achievement that is not easily accomplished. Additional karma will be provided.]
[You have acquired 1,000 karma.]
[You have acquired 500 additional karma.]
The messages popped up one after the other as Yeon-woo got off from Hargan's corpse, which now looked like a mummy. 'This is crazy.' The world spun around him from the headache and dizziness that accompanied combining skills. There was a burning pain in his eyes and brain due to the overload. 'Well, we still made it.'
His entire plan had rested on Bathory’s Vampiric Sword. The number sixty-six signified that it was a top skill in the Tower, so Yeon-woo had hoped it would somehow help him kill Hargan. It was fortunate that the plan had worked out; otherwise, they would be the ones lying dead on the floor. Now that he was seeing the messages that informed him of the quest completion and the death of the boss monster, he could finally calm down. But a final message that popped up made Yeon-woo feel the most joy.
[Bathory’s Vampiric Sword has extracted the essence from the target, successfully stealing a part of the target’s skill.]
[The skill 'Heat Wave' has been created.]