[The proficiency of Bathory’s Vampiric Sword is too low. Adjusting the grade of obtained skill.]
[The skill 'Heat Wave' has been modified to 'Flame Infusion'.]
[Description: Downgraded form of Hargan’s (Lizardman King) innate skill, Heat Wave. Imbues the desired tool with fire. Fire of higher temperature can be created depending on the skill proficiency.]
"Innate skill? And it’s a buff skill?" As the aftereffects of combining skills ebbed away, Yeon-woo clenched his fists as he checked the skill description. Even if it had been downgraded to a lower rating, it was still an innate skill from a boss monster.
Innate skills were similar to unique skills that they were exclusive to specific beings. Usually, only the original owners possessed the skill, and they weren’t only powerful but also rare. However, unlike unique skills, which were limited to players, innate skills belonged to boss monsters. This meant that even if a boss monster with an innate skill died, it would reappear as the monster respawned in a new round. This was why Hargan appeared once more in this Tutorial round even though he had already been slain by his brother a long time ago.
Even though Heat Wave was Hargan’s innate skill, it was also possible for other players to obtain it. However, the ability to extract skills wasn’t commonly found in the Tower, much less in the Tutorial. Bathory’s Vampiric Sword was at the top of such skills, so it was safe to assume that Yeon-woo was the only one capable of stealing Hargan’s skill at this stage.
Although his lack of skill proficiency meant that he couldn’t obtain Heat Wave in its true form, it was still a great achievement. He had a buff skill that could even infuse a tool with the fire property. ‘An artifact’s power will increase when imbued with certain properties. That’s why artifacts with elemental buffs are usually traded at high prices.’ Yeon-woo no longer needed to look for an artifact with elemental buffs. Furthermore, Flame Infusion could be used for various other purposes since fire was a great offensive weapon and versatile element. 'I'll have to test it later.'
Yeon-woo slowly closed the skill window in a satisfied mood. He rose slowly from his seated position, trying to maintain balance. Seeing this, Kahn and Doyle came to support him.
“Dude, your body..." It wasn’t easy for Kahn to speak as he was too worried about Yeon-woo.
Yeon-woo had faced Hargan’s last Heat Wave head-on, and his half-burned clothes revealed several burn marks on his flesh. His white mask was also distorted from the intense heat.
Yeon-woo waved his hand to express that he was fine. "Don't worry, I’m all right. It's just hard to move, but it will improve over time." If he hadn't been able to heal his injuries with the energy drained by Bathory’s Vampiric Sword, it would have been the end.
"Let me check, man."
"Yeah, hyung. Sit down for a moment in case you’re hurt somewhere." However, Kahn and Doyle didn’t take their worried eyes off him and couldn’t leave him alone. Yeon-woo wondered for a moment how he could get them off, and he realized that there were still people locked up in the cages. He pointed towards the lair with his chin. "I'm OK, I really don’t need your help. But there are still people over there. Is it OK to leave them like that? They might be in danger because of the fire.”
Only then did Doyle remember the people still trapped in the human farm. He took Kahn with him and hurried over to the cages. Yeon-woo was finally able to rest against a half-burned tree stump. He closed his eyes and immersed himself into meditation to completely remove the aftereffects.
* * *
Kahn and Doyle successfully rescued the slaves. Fortunately, Hargan's Heat Wave did not reach the human farm. Perhaps because it was food storage for the hatchlings, it was fortified to withstand impact from the outside.
"Thank you, thank you very much!"
People burst into tears as their shackles and chains were unlocked. And they recovered, some of them even started to brazenly kick Hargan's dead body over and over. Other players even vented their anger on some of the surviving Lizardmen.
They had been brought back from the brink of death, but the Lizardmen hatchings had eaten alive the teammates they had been laughing and chatting with just a few days ago, right in front of their eyes. It was natural that their blood would boil just by looking at the monsters.
Kahn and Doyle stood and watched until they finally settled down. After their anger had been alleviated somewhat, a bald, middle-aged man approached them to express his gratitude. "I'd like to thank you one more time. Thanks to you, we were able to avenge our teammates. They’ll be able to rest peacefully now that the monsters are dead."
Kahn and Doyle waved their hands. "No need to thank us, we only did what we were supposed to do." Kahn calmly shook his head. Normally, he would have answered in a gratified manner, but he contained himself because of the heavy atmosphere. Still, his eyes were filled with pride.
The middle-aged man asked, "Oh, by the way, may I ask you a question?"
"Yes. Say it."
"I was wondering if you’re Kahn, the Blood Sword. Is that you?”
"Oh, wow. I tried to keep it a secret. Haha!" Kahn pretended to be embarrassed and scratched the back of his head. However, he couldn't stop the corners of his lips from curving up.
People's eyes widened. "I-is he really Kahn, the Blood Sword?"
"No wonder! I can’t think of anyone else capable of slaying the Lizardman King."
"I've only heard rumors about him, but he really is great. I don’t hold a candle to him."
"Then, the person next to him… is that Foxy Tail?"
"Yeah, I think you're right."
The more the people praised him, the broader Kahn’s grin grew. Doyle shook his head as he looked at Kahn, wondering why Kahn loved being in the spotlight so much. However, even as he smirked, Kahn did not forget to give his teammates due credit.
"Haha! Thank you all for your compliments. But I must say, I’m not the only one who participated in Hargan’s raid. In fact, I was only helping our teammate. If we didn’t have our friend over there, hmm...I don’t even want to imagine what could have happened." Kahn shook his head as he spoke in a light-hearted manner. Thanks to his efforts to lighten the atmosphere, people were slowly feeling more at ease. However, as soon as they turned their heads towards the direction Kahn had pointed, their faces became stiff again as they saw Yeon-woo sitting there. Unlike Kahn and Doyle, he was far from the crowd, lost in meditation.
People immediately looked away from Yeon-woo. Some of them even frowned or spat on the floor as if they had seen something disgusting. Kahn noticed the change in the atmosphere, so he cautiously inquired, "Is there something wrong?"
"That person over there is your teammate?"
"Yes, he is."
"Then I must warn you, please be careful of that man."
Kahn's face also darkened. "I'd like to ask you for the reason."
"When Doyle first found us in the cages, that man wanted him to abandon us.” The middle-aged man glared at Yeon-woo. The other players also recalled the conflict between Yeon-woo and Doyle and how Doyle had eventually turned his back to them. However, the thing that stood out most to them was Yeon-woo’s callous expression as he ditched them first.
Kahn looked at Doyle with a gloomy expression, clearly asking for the truth. Doyle wanted to explain why Yeon-woo had to say such a thing, but there were too many people watching them. He could only sigh and nod. The middle-aged man took it as a corroboration and continued talking with great excitement. "I may be crossing the line by saying this, but he is simply not human..."
"Yes. You’ve just crossed the line." Kahn looked at the middle-aged man and interrupted him.
The middle-aged man was taken aback by this unexpected response. "P-pard..."
"I said, you’re way out of the line." Kahn approached the middle-aged man, his lips pressed together.
The middle-aged man froze, perplexed by Kahn’s cold attitude. Even other players were beginning to look nervous. Kahn ignored their embarrassment and stood in front of the middle-aged man with a sneer. He poked the man in the chest with his finger. "No matter what you heard him say, he is one of the people who just saved your asses. And if you haven’t noticed, he's our teammate and he's the one who suffered the most injuries during our raid." Kahn dropped his polite tone. Respect could only be given to those who deserved it, and these ungrateful douchebags could be as mad as they wanted. He didn’t care. "But what did you idiots do? One thing for sure is that you were stupid enough to get yourselves stuck in this lair. You’re free and still alive all thanks to him. And what did you just say? Be careful around him? Well, why don’t you be careful with what you say?"
Humiliation hit the man hard, and his face turned red, his clenched fists quivering. However, Kahn laughed at his reaction. "What’s wrong? You want to punch me in the face? Go ahead. Hit me. You were too scared to do anything in front of the Lizardman King, but now you’re suddenly so brave because we’re players, right? Well, hurry up and punch me." Kahn even turned his cheek to the man.
The middle-aged man's eyelids trembled, and he turned around to look for help. The people who had been trapped in the farm and had promised to die together looked away, not wishing to get involved. The middle-aged man finally realized his situation. "I-I'm sorry."
"What? I can't hear you." Kahn’s forehead creased and he put his ear close to the middle-aged man's mouth.
"I'm sorry." The middle-aged man's voice shook.
Kahn sneered and laughed a little, then he backed off. "You need to apologize to someone else too, don’t you think?" It was obvious whom he was talking about.
The middle-aged man bit his lower lip and looked at Yeon-woo, who was still meditating and not paying any attention to them. Kahn pointed at Yeon-woo and hurried the man forward. The middle-aged man slowly approached Yeon-woo with trembling steps. He apologized with a ninety-five-degree bow. "I'm sorry, sir. Please forgive my slip of the tongue."
Yeon-woo didn’t respond for a long time, which meant that the middle-aged man couldn't straighten his back. Finally, Yeon-woo opened his eyes in irritation and gave him a little nod before closing his eyes once more. It was only then that the middle-aged man could straighten up. The other players kept their mouth closed.
The relationship between the strong and the weak was apparent here as well.
* * *
The middle-aged man, Brend, returned to the group with his mouth shut. People began to shuffle away, afraid that he would talk to them. Soon, there was no one left around him. Brend bit his lips and searched for a place to sit. “Dirty traitors.” Brend gritted his teeth.
They had clung to him while they were in the Lizardmen’s clutches, and he had risked his life to get them the things that they needed. But now that he was the one in need, they all avoided him. He felt dirty and miserable. He resented Kahn and Doyle for humiliating him just because they had saved him. Also, he cursed the one who had caused the problem in the first place.
"Uhm, hyung-nim." A skinny man approached Brend and stood next to him cautiously. His name was Ethan, and he had relied on Brend the most at the human farm. He was an ordinary player who’d been captured and brought to the farm. One day, Brend found him on the verge of dying and had stepped up to help him. Since then, Ethan began following him around, saying he’d serve his hyung-nim forever.
Brend found him smart and witty, so he decided to keep him around. But today, Ethan had been the first to avoid his gaze when he asked for help, and so Brend said in an ungracious tone, "What is it?"
Noticing Brend’s cold attitude, Ethan carefully said, "I'm terribly sorry."
"That I didn’t support you. I-I hope you understand. You know about us…how we survived here."
Brend glared at Ethan, but soon sighed deeply. Ethan and his teammates were just like mayflies. They had survived each section by following behind other skilled players. So, even if he wanted to scold Ethan, it would just be a waste of breath. He couldn't believe that they had even managed to reach Section E with their mediocre skills. However, he was too fed up and didn’t want to talk to Ethan anymore. "I don't know what you're trying to do right now. Just leave me alone."
"Well, I don’t mean any harm, so please hear me out."
Brend scowled fiercely at Ethan. He was already boiling with anger, and Ethan just pressed on his last nerve. He felt an impulse to throw a rock at him, but Ethan's sudden question stopped him from taking action: "Hyung-nim, don't you need Tokens or artifacts?"
"What do you ca—"
"We’ve got a treasure trove over there just waiting for us. Why don't we go and make a fortune?"
Brend looked in the direction that Ethan was pointing and saw Kahn and Doyle walking up to Yeon-woo.