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Chapter 2. An invitation from a pocket watch (2)
The message ended there.
Yeon-woo quickly examined the pocket watch again, just in case he could find another trace of his brother, or another message hidden inside.
But he couldn't find anything.
Yeon-woo sat down heavily on the sofa.
He continued handling the pocket watch without saying a word.
It had scratches in several places and was missing its minute hand. He felt like the experiences that his brother had gone through on 'that side' were being portrayed right in front of his eyes.
Then Yeon-woo slowly rewound the k.n.o.b.
To my older brother who will listen to this sometime in the future. By the time you hear this….
His brother's recorded voice started speaking again from the beginning.
After that, Yeon-woo once again rewound the k.n.o.b.
By the time you hear this….
In the same place, Yeon-woo rewound the watch over and over again.
And every time, he could hear his brother's voice inside his head.
The same voice, the same tone, the same diary.
[Starting the succession process]
At that moment, a small screen popped up under his retina.
This meant he was successfully connected to The Tower.
And then, his body began to change.
Something was wriggling inside his lower abdomen. He felt as if there was a snake curled up in his stomach and it was raising its head up.
It was a refreshing feeling, and yet, at the same time, it felt as if a weird seed was sprouting inside him.
It was mana. The basic element that const.i.tutes the foundation of the world. It is also the power that people from other worlds and The Tower dealt with.
A cl.u.s.ter of mana exploded inside him. Through an unknown path, it spread out in all directions throughout his body.
He felt something was changing on the inside.
His body started to twist and convulse, followed by a fierce pain as if he were being torn apart.
He felt like his body was being disa.s.sembled and pierced by countless needles.
During military school, his tolerance against torture had been trained, but this was completely different.
Even so, Yeon-woo held tight onto his sanity. Not even a groan came out from his mouth.
He was sitting in place as he kept rewinding the pocket watch and listened to his brother's voice again and again.
By the time you….
His skeletal frame was being altered. The joints in his body were readjusting, and his muscles turned soft and then hard again. A black substance was secreted out from his torn skin, which gave off a bad odor.
All the impurities in his body had been eliminated, and his muscles and skeleton had been refined.
He was in such a terrible pain, but this was nothing compared to what his brother had gone through.
And then, what seemed like an endless process finally came to its end.
[Your awakening process is incomplete. Current progress: 5%]
[Your current body is insufficient to complete the succession process. Refine your body to complete the succession process. As your body improves, the succession progress will also advance.]
[Your current status is 'Incomplete Dragon Body(龍體)']
[Your physical abilities have been partially improved]
[Your traits have been confirmed]
[Your skills have been registered]
[You have acquired the qualifications of a player. You can only register once inside Obelisk.]
Yeon-woo was in no condition to concentrate on what the strange voice was saying.
After that abominable pain, some strong feelings lingered in his mind.
But Yeon-woo still couldn't take his eyes off of the pocket watch.
To my older brother who will listen to this sometime in the future….
* * *
As Yeon-woo rewinded the watch several times, he a.s.similated his brother's memories left inside the diary.
Five years worth of memories.
The memories of when he met his teammates and founded Arthia. The memories of when they were so happy after successfully clearing one of the hardest floors. The memories of when they stood back to back, fighting their war.
The memories of himself drenched in blood, feeling worn out. The memories of when he kissed his love for the first time…. The memories of when he wept aloud because of her betrayal. And the memories of when he walked alone towards his enemies that were flooding in like water.
As the memories were being embedded into his head, Yeon-woo could the feel happiness, sadness and all the other emotions his brother had felt.
Inside, Yeon-woo had become his brother.
And at that moment, when everything had ended,
[Player: Yeon-woo Cha]
Strength: 10 Dexterity: 15 Health: 12 Mana: 21
Skills: Draconic Eyes, Sense Strengthening, Foresight
Yeon-woo awoke from the overflowing thoughts. As he opened his eyes, a transparent panel popped up right in front of his eyes.
'It was true. Everything."
He was hoping for it to be a lie. He would have prefered everything to be a dream or an illusion, but it wasn't.
It was reality.
Yeon-woo's expression sunk.
Now he knew about everything his brother had gone through. Who put his brother to death, and the reason why his brother had to return like that after five years.
The Tower was a place that could turn someone into a G.o.d.
But to Yeon-woo, it was nothing more than a lawless area where everyone bites at each other's throat.
And his brother was bitten by the starving demons inside that place.
If that's the case,
"I will pay you back."
Following their rules,
"Equally to you all."
Yeon-woo was given his brother's abilities as they were.
A player. He had acquired the minimum requirement to climb the tower.
And now it was time for him to come forward.
Sadness disappeared from his eyes.
Only cold fury remained.
* * *
Yeon-woo silently stared at the transparent panel that was in front of his eyes.
"So this is the 'Status window'?"
The status window was further cla.s.sified into three tabs: Traits, Attributes, Skills.
Traits showed the player's personality or talents.
The first trait his brother had obtained was 'Psychometry', the ability to communicate with his surroundings.
His brother was able to overcome many dangers by the using his Psychometry to communicate with objects or skills.
In addition to that, Attributes showed a quantification of a player's capabilities, and Skills showed the standardized skills that players could use inside the tower.
'It's just like a game'
When talking about Obelisk, his brother had said "it may look like a game, but it's not. It's reality".
Now he understood why.
'Currently, I have Cold-blooded as my trait.'
An ability to maintain rationality in any situation. Shows great immunity to mind control and brainwash cla.s.s curses.
This was a talent Yeon-woo originally possessed.
It seems that it was created based on his training as a professional soldier.
A power that helps him keep a cool-headed judgement in chaotic situations and command his army on the frontlines.
'It's not bad.'
No, it wasn't just 'not bad'.
It was perfect.
It was very important to have a card in his hand that could help him protect himself in a world full of bizarre magics and skills.
'Only, my attributes are too weak.'
Even though he had gone through an awakening as a player and his body had also been improved, he was still just a normal human.
On average, his attributes were all below 20.
For climbing The Tower where all sorts of monsters existed, he was too weak.
But it was no surprise.
He had no idea how to handle mana, and he wasn't particularly skilled at anything. Also, his knowledge on the concept of skills was too scarce.
The only thing he could rely on were his instincts that had been honed by war.
So was the Skill tab.
Eyes of a dragon. Sees through the truth. Can partially peek into an object or person's abilities.
The five senses are greatly improved.
Can see a certain amount of time into the future.
His Draconic Eyes were the only vestige his brother had left behind for him through the succession process in the pocket watch.
'Jeong-woo was able to make contract with an ancient dragon(古龍) on the 11th floor by chance. Is this something left from that encounter?'
The draconic species(龍種) are arrogant and ferocious by nature, yet are also beings that seek the truth.
It seems his brother had been partly exposed to their nature, and acquired the eyes that can peek through the truth.
But how big of a help would this be was yet to be known.
'Seems like Sense Strengthening was generated according to my Trait."
It was a skill that allowed him to arbitrarily control his five senses, that are sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste.
Yeon-woo liked this skill the most.
It's unpredictable what could happen in a battlefield.
He might have to locate enemies that are out of sight, or he might have to trace out a faint smell of oil. There was also a time when he had to listen to the distant footsteps of the enemy.
If he could handle such senses freely, it would be very helpful in his attempt to climb up the tower.
'What bothers me the most is this one,'
Yeon-woo's eyes were fixed on the last skill.
Yeon-woo looked at the pocket watch in his hand.
'Is it because of this?"
Skills were given according to players' Traits, but sometimes they were given according to the player's environment or their most precious object.
Especially skills with the word 'special' attached behind, it's safe to say that it was a skill of his own.
'OK. For now, let's just do it.'
Yeon-woo took a deep breath.
It was clear that compared to other players, he was starting on a better foothold thanks to his brother's help.
But even so, there was a long way ahead of him.
The ones who brought his brother to his death are the strongest amongst all rankers.
They had grown stronger and stronger throughout the course of several years, some even hundreds of years.
He had a long way to go if he wanted to catch up with those people.
The image of his brother in the photograph came back to his mind.
'You only wanted me to find the Elixir and live the rest of my life peacefully, but….'
He clenched his fist, causing his veins to stick out.
'I'm afraid I don't think I can just let things go.'
* * *
Yeon-woo proceeded to sort out his personal affairs.
[Sergeant Cha! what are you talking about? You're leaving the army all of a sudden?]
He heard the commander's furious voice over the phone.
It was no surprise.
Upon hearing about his brother's death, the commander had sent him back to Korea to allow him to get himself sorted out, but now he was applying to be discharged without any prior notice. If Yeon-woo were the commander, he would also be mad.
Yeon-woo, however, did not give any specific excuses.
[Did something happen? Or did you have any complaints? If you did, just tell me. If 'Cain' leaves, what am I supposed t…! ]
Yeon-woo hung up the phone right after saying that.
His phone rang again, but he turned off the phone and threw it into a garbage can on the street.
The commander had cared for him like a son, so he had to cut off the connection even more adamantly.
The only thing left was his house, but he also put it out on the real estate market.
Anyway, the house had been unused since he got dispatched, and now there was no reason to leave it any longer.
He didn't want to have a place to come back.
With the money he had, he bought several stuff.
He filled his newly purchased backpack with some basic clothes and as many combat rations as he could; Equipped himself with dozens of knives that he used back in the army and some tools for survival like medical kits.
He once thought about buying firearms and bombs from the black market, but soon shook off the idea.
'The Tower is a place that was built to test a player's skills. It's better to avoid such things. Besides, if I can't continuously supply myself with ammunition it's just going to be c.u.mbersome.'
And once everything was ready, Yeon-woo came out to a lonesome park early in the morning.
He was wearing jeans and a black hoodie with his hood drawn over his eyes, and he carried a backpack full of luggage on his right shoulder. He had already burned the uniform and the bag he used to carry before coming out.
'Considering the time difference between Obelisk and the real world, is it about a week after the last round began?'
To enter The Tower, he had to go through this one place first.
The place to test players who want to enter The Tower. It was disadvantageous to enter such a place a week after it had already started.
But Yeon-woo still decided to enter during this period.
'Players who start late are also given advantages. The more I catch up with the front runners, the more points I get, and there's also a hidden piece that is only given to latecomers. Moreover,'
Yeon-woo's eye let out a bleak glow.
"I'm sure it's around this time that 'that guy' shows up."
As Yeon-woo organized his plans step by step in his head,
He wound the k.n.o.b of his brother's pocket watch backwards.
Then, a cl.u.s.ter of lights spread in the middle of the park, and a shadow suddenly sprang up.
The shadow swirled around and formed a lump.
It was a gateway to the world where The Tower was located.
Yeon-woo stepped inside the gate without any hesitation. His eyes looked colder than ever.
"From now on,"
'I will make sure to let the people beyond this gate know who they messed up with.'
"I am Jeong-woo Cha."
And so, the gate closed.