With the arrival of the mysterious merchant, Kahn’s and Doyle’s eyes grew wider. "Hyung, do you also know the mysterious merchant?" Doyle looked at Yeon-woo with a surprised face.
Yeon-woo nodded lightly. "A little."
"Hey, how can you be so mean to me? I thought we had something special between us. Ohoho!" The mysterious merchant smirked as he babbled some silly jokes. He didn’t try hiding his fondness for Yeon-woo at all, which astonished Doyle even more.
It was not easy to get access to the mysterious merchant. He seldom showed himself in the waiting room or boss rooms of each section, and he only appeared at random, without any set times or reasons. Most people stayed in the waiting rooms for an indefinite amount of time, hoping for the mysterious merchant to show up. And yet, he had just popped up out of nowhere. But then, it was possible to strike a deal with the mysterious merchant.
"I’m also glad to see you again, Kahn and Doyle. We haven’t seen each other ever since you purchased the pass tickets, right?” The mysterious merchant greeted Kahn and Doyle.
"Yeah." Kahn nodded with a sour face. He felt like he was getting heartburn just from recalling the amount of attribute points he’d paid for the tickets to go to Section B’s waiting room. There were only two ways to befriend the mysterious merchant. The first was to appear in the top ten of the Tutorial rankings, which was how Kahn became acquainted with the mysterious merchant. And the other way was: ‘To be acknowledged by him.’ It seemed like Yeon-woo belonged in that group, and Kahn thought it was understandable. Considering what he’d seen from Yeon-woo so far, there was no way the mysterious merchant or the Guardian wouldn’t notice him.
After greeting them, the mysterious merchant quickly turned to Yeon-woo. "By the way, would you mind telling me how you noticed my presence? I was so confident that I’d hidden myself completely."
Kahn and Doyle also nodded. The mysterious merchant belonged to the Tower like the Guardian, so normal players couldn’t notice their presence if they wanted to remain unseen. However, Yeon-woo only flatly replied, "It would be dumb of me not to notice you when you were staring at me like that."
"Hmph, I see. You are not going to tell me." The mysterious merchant grunted at Yeon-woo’s reply. However, his eyes were glowing strangely under his hood. He’d realized that Yeon-woo was a strange person when he purchased the reset tickets for Section A that no one else had ever bought before. However, the mysterious merchant put on his usual smile, suppressing his feelings. "But next time, please cut me a break and pretend you don’t see me. You’ve ruined the fun, don't you think? Oh hohoho."
Yeon-woo tilted his head as if wondering at the mysterious merchant’s true intentions. "If we hadn’t realized you were here, wouldn’t you have tried to steal our items?"
The mysterious merchant grinned. "My, my, you must have read my mind."
Yeon-woo shook his head as he looked at the smirking mysterious merchant.
If anyone asked me to name the things that you should never trust in the Tower, the first thing would be the mysterious merchants. It’s not true that they don’t go outside very often. They always keep a close watch on players but stay invisible so that they can pick up the items that players have missed or thrown away.
He remembered his brother’s warnings about the mysterious merchants, who never found themselves on the short end of the stick. They would dig around in filth if they thought they would find something profitable, and they sold the things they took from players at high prices. If Yeon-woo had taken only the items he needed, the mysterious merchant would have appeared once he was gone to take everything else in the lair. However, Yeon-woo wasn’t going to give away his items that easily.
"One hundred and fifty Tokens,” he said without any explanation. It was a bargain price for the ownership of the lair and the Blue Scale Scimitar.
Kahn and Doyle then turned to the mysterious merchant with excited faces, but the mysterious merchant only snorted at Yeon-woo's offer with his arms crossed.
"Oh dear, now you're trying to bargain with me. But, you know, even the top rankers…"
"One hundred sixty."
“…can’t get that..."
"One hundred eighty."
As the mysterious merchant continued talking, Yeon-woo kept increasing the price. "Two hundred fifty."
"…do you think you can sell them at that price? Really?"
"Three hundred. You better take my offer quickly. The more you hesitate, the higher the number will go." The corners of Yeon-woo’s mouth lifted. "And of course, if you don't accept the price, I will blow up the entire lair along with all the Magic Stones inside it.”
"Magic Stones like those are pretty easy to get, I can..."
"I didn’t realized it was so easy to get Magic Stones with a purity of over seventy. I guess I’ll just have to blow them all up, then."
For the first time, the mysterious merchant’s expression grew stiff. Yeon-woo noticed it right away, and his smile grew. He’d been aiming for that very look. ‘As long as I’m not a fool, there's no way I can lose if I know exactly what my opponent is after.’
It was only much later that the question rose in my mind. Why did Hargan's Lair quest produce so few rewards? And why was ownership of the lair one of the rewards? Players are rewarded according to their achievements in the Tower, so there must have been a reason.
Later, I figured out that Hargan’s Lair had a rich reserve of fine Magic Stones. But even learning about it didn’t make me feel too disappointed. I wouldn’t have been able to find a use for them, anyway.
A Magic Stone was a medium for storing and delivering mana, like an electrical conductor on Earth. Stones with higher purity were more efficient in transferring mana, so those with a purity of over seventy fetched a very high price. That was the reason why the mysterious merchant had his eye on Hargan's Lair. ‘Of course, if the lair has Magic Stones worth that much, I could take them for myself. But the higher the purity is, the more complicated the mining process becomes.’
His brother had also believed the effort was not worth the gain. ‘I’d rather spend more time collecting Tokens.’ The Magic Stones inside the lair were just a white elephant to Yeon-woo, and he was better off selling the lair to people who needed it. The mysterious merchant appeared just in time.
The mysterious merchant finally realized that he had fallen into Yeon-woo’s trap, and there was nothing he could do about it. "Hmm! Still, 300 Tokens is too much for…”
"O-OK! OK! Stop! I'll pay your price, so don't raise it anymore! I’m really gonna go broke!" The mysterious merchant finally waved the white flag.
Yeon-woo smiled in victory. "Good. I'll sell it for 405 Tokens. Five extra for wasting my time."
"…I've never met anyone worse than I am before." The mysterious merchant sighed deeply and stretched his hand wide. Hum! He drew a blue magic circle in the air, and a message popped up in front of Yeon-woo.
[You have sold Blue Scale Scimitar and the ownership of Hargan’s Lair and obtained 405 Tokens in exchange.]
Yeon-woo noticed that the scimitar in his hand and the entire lair had disappeared. Instead, a new window appeared.
Yeon-woo had possessed less than 100 Tokens at the start of the raid, but now he had nearly 700 after clearing the quest and selling some items. Kahn and Doyle shook their heads, their mouths agape. It was the first time they’d seen the mysterious merchant forced into a deal. The mysterious merchant kept muttering to himself, saying things like “It’s a total loss”, “There’s nothing left”, “I got scammed”, and so on.
"Oh, and one more thing."
As soon as Yeon-woo spoke, the mysterious merchant looked wary. "Wh-what else are you going to con me out of?"
"You sound like I’m bullying you. Anyway, I forgot to tell you, I want to buy something."
It was finally his chance. The mysterious merchant grinned. "Hohoho, what do you have in mind?"
Yeon-woo pointed at the mask he was wearing. "You can see that it’s a little melted. I need something similar."
For a short moment, the mysterious merchant’s face twisted. "Well, I do have things like that. Oh, by the way, it will cost you four streng—”
"Just throw it in as part of our deal."
"You can’t just do that!"
"Then I guess you want to cancel our deal. It doesn’t matter to me."
The mysterious merchant was speechless. He’d already hit his limit and was cursing Yeon-woo out inside, but he couldn’t lose a big deal over such a trivial thing. In the end, the mysterious merchant once again stretched out his hand while grinding his teeth in indignation.
[You have acquired the Face of White Ghost.]
Yeon-woo patted the mask in his hand. It was similar to the one he’d been wearing except it wasn’t made of plastic but some other material he’d never seen before.
"I noticed you were having a hard time because of the mask, so I prepared something good just for you. Next time we meet, if you keep bullying me like you just did, I’m not going to stick with your play, OK?"
Yeon-woo checked the artifact with a strange expression.
[Face of White Ghost]
[Description: A mask with various spirits ensnared inside. Using it produces a bizarre atmosphere, and allows the user to hide some of their presence. Once worn, it doesn't come off easily. If damaged, it can restore itself by capturing other spirits.]
Although it didn’t have any special options, Yeon-woo liked the fact that it wouldn’t fall off from his face easily and would recover from damage. Yeon-woo turned away so that the others would not see his face and removed the mask he was wearing. He was somewhat amazed that the mask was still in one piece, considering what he had been through. But now, he had to bid farewell to it.
Yeon-woo crushed the old mask and threw it to the floor, and he put on the Face of White Ghost. The material felt odd on his skin. He patted the mask to test it, and it was clearly stuck to his face like a leech. "I appreciate your kindness."
"Like hell you do!" Sigh! The mysterious merchant packed up the bundle he had brought with him and put it back on his shoulder. However, despite his sigh, he couldn’t remove the smile lingering on his face. He opened up a portal and got ready to leave. Just as he stuck one foot inside the portal, he suddenly looked at Yeon-woo. "Oh, by the way."
"What is it?"
"While you were bargaining for the Magic Stones, you seemed almost too bold, as if you had some kind of secret knowledge. Is it because you know what’s happening on the other side?” Under the hood, the eyes of the mysterious merchant shone keenly.
However, Yeon-woo replied in a calm manner, "On the other side? What do you mean?"
"Huh. Well, it’s nothing. I must have been mistaken." The mysterious merchant shook his head and disappeared into the portal.
Yeon-woo stayed calm even as the blue portal closed, and his new mask made it even more difficult to see his expression, much less his thoughts. ‘So, it’s true. The arms race between clans and between rankers in the Tower has become very fierce.’ Yeon-woo's eyes glowed coldly.