Yeon-woo didn’t know what to make of this mysterious merchant. He had just said “peekaboo” and “gullible”. He couldn't read the merchant’s expression because of the fabric shrouding his face, but the merchant seemed to be enjoying the situation.
Yeon-woo knitted his forehead. ‘I've been too complacent.’ Like the Guardians, the mysterious merchant was forbidden from interfering with the players, which was why he hadn’t hurt Yeon-woo. ‘But even though I was exhausted, I shouldn’t have slept like that.’
Yeon-woo checked the time and saw that twelve hours had passed since he arrived at the base. It had taken him about a day and ten hours to get through the first half of Section A. In total, approximately forty-six hours had passed since he’d arrived at the Tutorial.
It was pretty fast for a solo player, and it was evident why he was so exhausted. He’d powered through the first section even though he’d been on the verge of collapsing. However, Yeon-woo didn’t like his situation. He knew that sufficient rest was required after any intensive training to allow for growth since the human body wasn’t a machine. In fact, even machines needed plenty of rest to avoid overheating. But Yeon-woo couldn't afford that right now.
The Tower was no less than a battlefield, and on a battlefield, there was no room for rest at all. He had to be wary of enemies that could arrive from anywhere at any time. Even though there weren’t any steel arrows in the arrival point, it was a place that other players could freely enter. Even though he was safe with the mysterious merchant, he couldn’t say the same about the other players.
‘Even if I was too exhausted...’ Yeon-woo gathered his thoughts. He had to admit that he’d grown dull after being away from the battlefield for some time. He decided to sharpen himself and revert back to who he’d once been: Cain.
Yeon-woo opened his eyes as he thought of his old code name, which he no longer used. His eyes shimmered with cold determination.
A strange expression appeared on the mysterious merchant’s face, although it was obscured by his clothing. He seemed to notice a big change in Yeon-woo’s attitude after some mental struggle. He asked with a light smile, “On your way here, did you discover that you needed something, sir? I'm a merchant who sells everything. If you need something, just name it. Need any artifacts or slaves? I’ve got information too. I’ll sell them at a good price."
The mysterious merchant flicked his finger lightly, and a window popped up in front of Yeon-woo, showing the items he had for sale, which were divided into different categories.
Yeon-woo lightly clucked his tongue as he touched the window. ‘Medusa’s Venom, Horn of the Golden Mountain Goat, Left Eye of Tiamat...and Nightmare of Walpurgis too? He sells these kinds of items in the Tutorial? This is insane.’ The items at the top of the list were ones that rankers would fervently pounce on at the upper floors of the Tower.
The list had items that could easily help someone complete the Tutorial, but they were out of reach. There was no way that anyone going through the Tutorial would be able to afford any of them. However, as he scrolled down, he found cheaper items, some of them good for beginners.
“Arhan-Style Swordsmanship Manual, Introduction to One-Circle Magic, and Success Formula to Elemental Sorcery. These skill books might come in handy. But they require some effort to attain proficiency.”
In particular, a dagger called the Venomous Fang of Barma grabbed Yeon-woo’s attention.
[Venomous Fang of Barma]
[Attack power: 25]
[A dagger made from smelting the fangs of a serpent that inhabits the swamps of Barma. Poison has been applied to the edge of the dagger. The poison’s effect is random.]
“It’s a dagger that inflicts curses, not poison.” The weapon cursed its targets as soon as it touched them. There were different types of curses: poison, burn, freeze, electrocution, hallucination, stun, blind, and so on. The curse was unpredictable, if the target couldn’t find a way to resist the random curse, they could be taken down.
Moreover, since it was made from the fangs of a magical creature, he could continue using it even after reaching the upper floors of the Tower. If he bought it, he would be able to put it to good use. However, Yeon-woo took his eyes off the dagger and moved on to the next items. “It would be good to have it, but right now I need to focus on physical training. There’s no need to rely on artifacts yet.” A long time passed as he browsed through the list. Finally, he came to a stop. “Found it.”
[You can return to any place you desire.]
Yeon-woo looked at the mysterious merchant with a grin. "How much is this?"
"We are conscientious merchants who only offer reasonable prices. We never overcharge players for items they need. We don’t rip off those who don't have money...”
"Make it brief."
"Your attribute points. That's all you have to pay."
‘Conscientious merchants?’ Yeon-woo placed his hand on the mineral water at the bottom of the list.
[A bottle of drinking water to slake your thirst. Be sure to bring some with you.]
[Price: Strength 2]
‘Water costs two strength points! Conscientious?’ Yeon-woo was so dumbfounded that he burst out laughing. Of course, he could just ignore the water and not buy it, but humans needed water to live, and there was no other way to find drinking water or food during the Tutorial.
"Three dexterity points for one day’s worth of food.” Even if someone brought enough food and water from outside, it might be lost along the way or even be stolen by other players. Also, players who barely managed to get through Section A often found themselves in need of better equipment.
‘There’s a boss room beyond this point, so players have no choice but to equip themselves for the fight.’ Players had to bite the bullet and buy items from the mysterious merchant, but then, with their decreased attribute points, the next fight would be even tougher. Then, they would have to trade the attribute points they’d scraped together to buy the next set of equipment, throwing themselves into a vicious cycle. ‘And here he is, calling himself a “conscientious merchant”. He’s no better than a thief.’
Yeon-woo smirked a little. ‘I don't know who designed the Tutorial, but they are truly evil.’ After closing the category window, Yeon-woo said, "There’s something I want to buy."
"Yes. Say it."
"In exchange for all the attribute points I got from Section A, I'd like to buy tickets to reset Section A." The rules didn’t allow players to attempt a section once more after clearing it, but since the ticket could send a player back to any location, a plan sprang into his mind. If he could stack up attribute points by repeatedly going through Section A, it would become much easier to proceed to the rest of the sections.
For a brief moment, the mysterious merchant’s eyes gave off a strange glow. They were filled with interest. “Do you mean the reset tickets?”
“I do have those, but I've never met anyone interested in them. Usually, players who survive Section A ask for things that can make the next section easier for them, not something that will make them go through Section A all over again."
“Well, I have something in mind."
"If you say so." The mysterious merchant chuckled and then clapped his hands, making the shelves behind him disappear.
[Attribute points acquired through Section A will be paid in exchange for the purchase.]
[You have acquired Reset Ticket for Section A x 10]
Yeon-woo felt his body deflating like a balloon. The battle-hardened body he had developed seemed to be a dream, and he found ten pink tickets in his hand.
“It’s easy to use the tickets. Just tear off a ticket whenever you want, and you'll be teleported to the location you desire.”
Yeon-woo shoved the tickets into his pocket. "I’ll use it well."
"I'd appreciate it if you do. I must be off. I hope we meet again." The mysterious merchant turned and melted away without a trace. The room also started to disappear like a wave, and Yeon-woo found himself in a different place.
Unlike the empty passage he’d gone through, this one had dozens of scarecrows standing in a row. There were also some players in the distance. Five people were blasting away with all kinds of skills, fighting the scarecrows. He could hear their screams of anger. It was clear that the scarecrows weren’t easy to handle.
[This is Section A’s boss room. Do you want to enter?]
Yeon-woo took out a ticket. He wanted to experience the difficulty of the boss, but with his current condition, he would become toast with just one mistake. He tore the ticket without any hesitation.
Whoosh! He opened his eyes and found himself in a familiar place. It was the starting zone of Section A. He drew a dagger from his waist and held it in his right hand. “I must raise my attribute points as high as possible here.” This time, he intended to make Section A entirely his own.