If you desire to become a god, climb up the Tower!
* * *
[You have now arrived at Floor 0, the Tutorial Hall.]
Yeon-woo frowned as the bright light pierced his eyes, making them tingle. His vision shook violently, and he felt dizzy, as though he were on a high-altitude flight.
[Your trait, Cold-blooded, has helped you maintain composure.]
He felt something wriggling inside his body, steadying the spinning world around him. The motion sickness soon subsided, and Yeon-woo could look around more comfortably. He found himself in a passage that ran straight ahead. The walls were made of rock, and the ceiling was studded with stones that glowed with light at regular intervals. However, the light was dim, and he could only see two meters ahead of him, and the rest of the way was dark.
“I’m really in.” Yeon-woo clenched his fists. He’d seen the same scene in the diary.
The Tower served as a gateway and as a test to assess participants who wished to become a god. The Tower didn’t accept just any player, so candidates had to prove that they were worthy. The Tutorial location where players were tested was often called “Floor 0”.
“The people who hurt Jeong-woo are just past this place.” Just by closing his eyes, Yeon-woo could recall the scenes from the diary and picture the faces of those who had betrayed his brother and driven him to his death. However, he didn’t get agitated and kept his head as cool as possible. “Just wait a little while longer. I’ll be there soon.”
To enter the Tower, he had to pass the Tutorial with a high score, and not just any high score. “It must be so high that I’ll be in first place.” Of course, it wasn’t going to be easy.
The Tower was connected to numerous dimensions, spaces, and worlds. Only the most capable could participate as players. Yeon-woo could only be considered a strong candidate among those from Earth. After all, the universe was vast, and there were many other candidates. Compared to the other players, Yeon-woo had many weaknesses, since he focused only on physical abilities and instinctual skills. He would be dead without even taking a few steps in the Tutorial.
“However, the Tutorial is also the place where I can obtain the qualification.” His brother had possessed a very weak body before he’d started climbing the Tower. However, he’d still passed the Tutorial and even reached sixth place in the rankings in the shortest amount of time ever.
The Tutorial didn’t only test physical abilities—it also assessed other aspects, such as players’ talent, judgment, agility, resourcefulness, and decisiveness. It rated the players after summing up all of these aspects. Of course, there were always deaths during the process. Many candidates were overconfident in their insignificant abilities and rushed into the Tutorial heedlessly, only to end up dead.
Fortunately, Yeon-woo was aware of the dangers of the Tutorial, as well as its value. “Hidden pieces can be found everywhere. I have to gather as many of them as possible to finalize my incomplete succession.” Yeon-woo’s status window was displaying “Incomplete Dragon Body (5%)”, and his brother’s achievements had not entirely passed to him yet. Yeon-woo intended to refine his vessel as much as possible in order to replace the word “incomplete” with “complete”.
“I’m going to focus on making my vessel as complete as possible for now.” After organizing his thoughts, Yeon-woo quietly took a white mask out of his bag and put it on his face. He would have to face a lot of people, so he covered his face in preparation before he began walking slowly along the passage.
* * *
He didn’t know how long he’d been walking when a blue glow suddenly appeared in the air. “Ohyohyohyo! A guest at a time like this? I almost missed you and let you pass.” A portal opened, and someone dropped down from it.
In an instant, Yeon-woo instinctively stepped back and took a combat stance, crossing two daggers in front of his chest. The stranger’s appearance was bizarre. It was short and only reached to his waist, and it had bumpy, scabrous skin. It had long, slanted eyes and glistening fangs that poked out of its thick lips.
The mere sight of the creature filled him with disgust. It was a monster called a goblin. However, it had a different demeanor from the goblins he’d seen in the diary. Unlike ordinary goblins with low intelligence who only followed their instincts, the goblin in front of him wore a strange monocle over one eye and a fancy-looking tuxedo. His polite behavior gave him a dignified air.
“Despite my easygoing nature, your behavior hurts my feelings. So, why don’t you put down your daggers?” In contrast to his words, the goblin smiled in delight and winked. Only then did Yeon-woo realize who the goblin was. He was one of the Guardians who managed and oversaw each floor and trial in the Tower. “Greetings. I am the Guardian of Floor 0, Yvlke. It’s our destiny to meet like us. Why don’t you give us a round of applause? Ohyohyohyo.”
Yeon-woo lowered his daggers. The Guardians belonged to the Tower and were responsible for leading the players throughout the trials. There was no reason to be wary.
“Ho, you trust me?”
“That's because it’s good to keep a Guardian's advice in mind even if it seems trivial.”
“Oh my. I guess you know a little bit about us. Since you’re wearing a mask, I thought you were shy. Anyway, it should be much easier to talk now.” Yvlke began explaining with some light jokes. “The Tutorial is divided into seven sections, from A to F. Each section has a different environment and a different challenge. You will be scored according to how you perform the challenges within a restricted amount of time. At the end of the Tutorial, all your scores will be added up, and the results will be announced.”
Yeon-woo already had a rough idea of the rules thanks to the diary, but to avoid suspicion and confirm his information, he asked, “Do I have to pass all seven sections?”
“Not quite. You simply need to prove you possess the minimum qualifications in the Tutorial. If you think your score is high enough, you can simply stop. Of course, it’s good to pass every trial to get a higher score.”
“What are the benefits of getting a higher score?”
“Players are given rewards according to their score. After all, shouldn’t there be some motivation for players to get better results? The Tower and the Guardians are very thorough in that regard, ohyohyohyo.”
“How long does the Tutorial last?”
“Players have thirty days. It’s up to you to allocate the time for each section. However,” Yvlke smiled as he adjusted his monocle, “this round started a week ago, and there are only three weeks left. What do you want to do? Do you want to wait until the next round?” On the surface, a week didn’t seem like a long time, but it was already one-fourth of the whole Tutorial period. “The frontrunners have already used this time to run far ahead, and perhaps latecomers won’t be able to catch up at all.”
The higher the score, the better the reward and the better the chances of passing the Tutorial. Since Yeon-woo was planning to achieve a lot in the Tutorial, it was a very disadvantageous start. However, a slight smile appeared on his lips. “That’s what I was expecting, anyway.”
Yvlke was indifferent to his reaction and continued explaining. “Although this place is called a Tutorial, it’s still quite difficult. We usually advise players to organize a party of three to five people when going through each section. It increases the chances of proceeding smoothly.”
“That means I get a higher score if I pass a section alone, right?”
“Yes, but it will be much harder.”
“If a late individual player catches up with the leading parties, are there any benefits?”
Yvlke’s eyes glittered as he realized what Yeon-woo was thinking. He smiled broadly, making his fangs stand out even more. “The Tower grows according to the players’ achievements. The score will be adjusted according to a player’s individual achievements, so you don't have to worry about that.”
“Understood.” Now that he’d confirmed everything, Yeon-woo started to warm up lightly. Krak. ‘No matter what, I must kill that guy. If I don’t, it will mess up the whole plan.’ Yeon-woo recalled the most important hidden piece that could only be obtained in the Tutorial: the guy who only appeared during certain periods of time. Killing him would make the succession process easier. Crunch. Krak. His muscles began to tighten, his blood circulated faster, and his mind grew lucid.
Yvlke took a step back. He had already noticed that Yeon-woo wasn’t likely to listen to any more advice. There had been players like him before, and they ended up facing one of two possibilities: rushing forward overconfidently only to get fucked or doing something that was truly a sight to behold. Either way, Yvlke thought it would be fun to watch, so he did not stop Yeon-woo. “If that’s what you want.”
Snap. Yvlke lightly flicked his fingers, making a huge panel appear in the air.
[Beginning the trial of Floor 0.]
[Trial: you, a participant who aims to become a god, must prove yourself worthy of climbing the Tower. Within the time limit, you must pass through 7 gates and 7 challenges.]
[Requirement: achieve a high score within the time limit.]
“Let the trial begin.” Yvlke said goodbye with a dignified look as he disappeared like the wind. A timer appeared in his place.
“There are about twenty-two days and twenty-one hours remaining?” Yeon-woo clenched his dagger and stepped forward. “Let’s do this.” A new message popped up as he crossed the line dividing the starting zone from Section A.
[You have entered Section A.]
[Either break through or deactivate all the traps in this section.]
There was another straight passage ahead, and he felt like the darkness was beckoning him. Yeon-woo carefully took a step forward, keeping his senses alert. However, nothing happened even after a considerable amount of time passed, as though there were nothing there at all. An ordinary person would have relaxed, but the farther Yeon-woo went, the warier he became. Yvlke said it would be easier to pass through in small teams, and if this advice was accurate, then he shouldn’t underestimate the potential danger. After all, it always appeared without any notice, wiping out everything like a raging storm.
Like right now.
Swish! An arrow shot across the darkness, and Yeon-woo instinctively turned his body aside. The arrow brushed past his left forearm, leaving behind a scorching pain. His clothes were torn, and blood splashed.
Twang. “A steel arrow!” He came back to his senses, frowning at the arrow with the metal shaft that was deeply embedded into the wall. It would have torn off his arm if it had managed to hit him. He would be dead by now if it had hit his head or abdomen.
The diary had warned him about the various traps in Section A, however, the location of each trap changed each time and they were randomly activated, so his brother's experiences weren’t of much help. All he could do was stay alert and find his way through.
Swish! Swish! Swish!
More steel arrows flew towards him one after the other, all from different directions. It was impossible to track them. Yeon-woo crouched low and rolled forward, grabbing his backpack. It was thick and filled with clothing and equipment, so he could use it as a shield, which was why he had brought it in the first place.
Puck! Puck! Puck!
Three steel arrows struck his backpack with such strong impact that it felt as though his arm would come off each time an arrow hit. Two managed to fully pierce through the backpack, their tips poking out as if they were showing their faces shyly.
He managed to straighten himself up and stuck closely to a wall. Since he didn’t know where the attacks were coming from, he had to decrease his exposure as much as possible—something that he’d learned the hard way.
However, some traps had also been set up behind and below him. Snikt! Before he even realized what was happening, an arrow had pierced deep into his left thigh. “Ugh!” Yeon-woo felt as though fireworks were exploding right in front of his eyes. He gritted his teeth and tried turning around despite the terrible pain.
Puck! Puck! Puck!
Once again, arrows ripped through his backpack. This time, they penetrated his left shoulder, forearm, and ribs.