Chapter 60. Cain Guild (5)

Gi-Gyu and Tae-Shik glared at each other for a while before Tae-Shik gave in. “Are you sure you have a handle on this?”

“I don’t carry around a handle,” Gi-Gyu joked.

“Huh?” When Tae-Shik seemed confused, Gi-Gyu laughed and asked, “Haha, handle on what?” 

“Are you confident that you won’t…” Tae-Shik trailed off, unable to say the words. Frustrated, Gi-Gyu tilted his head and prodded, “What are you trying to say?”

Tae-Shik didn’t reply; it looked like he was trying to think of the right word. Finally, he asked, “Are you confident that you won’t turn into an animal?”

“Yes, that will never happen.” When Gi-Gyu replied promptly, Tae-Shik replied, “All right then.”

A short silence fell. Before long, their three bowls of soondae[1] soup arrived, and the meal began rather tensely. Thankfully, Suk-Woo cleared the air with a generic compliment.

“Wow… This is so delicious! You have no idea how much I missed this. I would love to come here from time to time to eat, but I’ve been way too busy lately.”

“Are you still that busy?” asked Gi-Gyu; he had already finished his bowl.

“Yeah… I’m actually busier than ever nowadays.” When Suk-Woo replied, Tae-Shik asked, “Gi-Gyu, haven’t you heard?” 

Gi-Gyu looked confused as Tae-Shik continued, “The Cain Guild recently became one of the top ten guilds in Korea. After the Phoenix guild disbanded, the Cain Guild took its place. So it’s no wonder Suk-Woo is crazy busy.”

 Fwah!

Gi-Gyu was drinking water; he spat it in shock. He asked, “Are you serious?”

“Well, yeah… It just kind of happened.” Suk-Woo looked away shyly. 

Suk-Woo’s guild didn’t get this prestigious spot—they took it. What Gi-Gyu did certainly helped, but that wasn’t the only reason. Since the Phoenix Guild getting disbanded was partly Gi-Gyu’s fault, he was pleased with how things turned out for his friend. 

Gi-Gyu congratulated Suk-Woo, “This is a big deal. Being in the top ten guilds of Korea is quite an accomplishment. Congratulations!”

“Thanks.”

Noticing that Tae-Shik was still eating, Gi-Gyu took another sip of water. Suk-Woo suddenly asked Gi-Gyu, “By the way, it’s you, isn’t it? I can tell now.”

“What do you mean?” replied Gi-Gyu as he took another sip.

“The masked ranker. It’s you, isn’t it?”

Fwahh!

Gi-Gyu spat his water for a second time today; although Tae-Shik managed to evade the spray, his bowl didn’t. His bowl now drenched in Gi-Gyu’s spit, Tae-Shik muttered in annoyance, “Ahh… Dammit!”

Meanwhile, Gi-Gyu had no time to apologize to Tae-Shik. He stammered, “N-no, I’m not!”

“You don’t have to lie to me. It’s so obvious that it’s you. Don’t underestimate a ranker’s eyes.” Suk-Woo shrugged. 

Embarrassed and awkward, Gi-Gyu looked around anxiously before asking, “Is it really that obvious?”

“Actually, no, not really. I only figured it out because of your rings. If you want to hide your identity, you should really do something about them.”

“...” 

Speechless, Gi-Gyu looked down at his hand. Indeed, he was still wearing those noticeable rings from the TV photo. Back when the reporters were crowding around the Tower, he hid them by keeping his hands in his pocket. But now he completely forgot about them, as he hadn’t been in public for quite a while. 

Suk-Woo was right: Gi-Gyu’s rings were conspicuous. Anyone who saw his photo on TV could probably tell that they were the same. 

I need to find a way to hide these.’

Gi-Gyu was busy thinking of a solution when Suk-Woo asked, “By the way, you also became a merc, huh?”

“What? How did you…” Gi-Gyu glanced at Suk-Woo. Surprise had lost its pizzazz on that table. Tae-Shik, who returned after paying for their food, murmured, “Yoo Suk-Woo, I told you not to say things like that in public.”

“But I bet all the other mercs have also noticed the ring; they probably already know it’s Gi-Gyu. And you said association mercs don’t have to hide their identity among fellow mercs,” Suk-Woo argued.

“Gosh, you mercs are so disobedient and annoying. Fine, whatever. Do as you wish,” Tae-Shik muttered and sat down. As soon as Gi-Gyu heard this, he turned toward Suk-Woo and asked, “What? You’re a merc too?”

“Yup.” Suk-Woo took out his hand and showed it to Gi-Gyu, but it had no ring. 

“Cancel.” When Suk-Woo used one of his skills, a ring appeared on his finger. It was the same white ring Gi-Gyu received from the association. Suk-Woo explained, “These rings were custom-made for us, but there is no built-in hide option. So all of us must find our own way to hide it. I mean, look at it. This ring is so noticeable.”

It was kind of Suk-Woo to explain these things to Gi-Gyu. He continued, “As I said, the other mercs probably also know your identity. But you need to know something: Not all mercs are friendlies. Be careful. And find a way to hide those rings, will you?”

“Okay,” Gi-Gyu murmured, still having difficulty processing all the information dumped on him. 

Well, this makes sense. Suk-Woo has a huge potential, so no wonder he was hired.’

Gi-Gyu could understand why the association chose Suk-Woo. He was a powerful player who quickly became a ranker after receiving the Tower’s invitation. The potential, persistence, and sheer will Suk-Woo possessed were undoubtedly considerable. 

On top of it all, his substantial leadership skill turned his guild into one of the top ten guilds in Korea. Actually, believing he wasn’t a merc would’ve been harder. 

Suk-Woo looked down at the shiny watch on his wrist and announced, “Ah! I’m sorry, but I don’t have much time, so…”

“Sorry I keep interrupting you,” Gi-Gyu apologized. Tae-Shik was listening to Gi-Gyu and Suk-Woo quietly until now, but he also wanted to get to the main topic. Tae-Shik asked, “So how did Choi Min-Suk find out about your secret skill, Suk-Woo? That bastard said he found out from one of your guild executives, but I thought you didn’t tell anyone in your guild.”

Choi Min-Suk targeted the Cain Guild members because he had something on their guild leader. He believed the red players could leave the Tower because of Suk-Woo’s unique ability, which only a handful of people knew. For his own safety, Suk-Woo didn’t go around advertising it. If the wrong people found this secret, players much stronger than Choi Min-Suk would target Suk-Woo. 

Gi-Gyu whispered, “How did he find you can create portals?” Tae-Shik already knew this secret, so he wasn’t shocked, but a solemn look appeared in Suk-Woo’s eyes.

***

Suk-Woo said it was a pure coincidence: An incident forced him into using his unique ability, and one of his executives saw it. Unfortunately, this executive was captured and killed by Choi Min-Suk. Suk-Woo knew of the executive’s death, but he had no idea the Smurf Guild was involved. Thanks to Gi-Gyu, the mystery was solved.

Gi-Gyu, Suk-Woo, and Tae-Shik chatted for a while longer before parting ways. Tae-Shik still had work to finish, so he returned to his office while Suk-Woo waited for one of his Guild members to come and pick him up. Since Sung-Hoon was waiting for Gi-Gyu in the association building, Suk-Woo and Gi-Gyu decided to take a short walk together. 

“We only talked about me today,” Suk-Woo muttered as they strolled. He asked, “Gi-Gyu, what happened?”

Gi-Gyu had kept quiet about his changes until now. He muttered, “A lot happened in my life too. More than you can ever imagine. There were days when I was weak and helpless, but things happened that allowed me to trounce rankers and become a merc like you.”

The street was quiet. It was very late, so there wasn't anyone out and about. Suk-Woo didn’t respond or prod; he just waited patiently. 

Gi-Gyu continued, “My mother is healthy now.”

“What?” Suk-Woo gasped, knowing what Gi-Gyu was saying. 

He must’ve found the elixir!’

Suk-Woo knew about his mother’s illness and had been doing his best to find a cure, but all roads just led to the elixir. It was an impossible dream, or at least that was what Suk-Woo believed. But he was wrong since Gi-Gyu found the elixir. 

Gi-Gyu whispered, “I’ve met many people, and I even found a way to become stronger. It’s a long story; unfortunately, I can’t talk about many things right now.” 

That was all Gi-Gyu was willing to reveal. He just hinted Suk-Woo about the incredible events that happened in his life. 

Honk!

A black sedan with the Cain Guild’s symbol on its windshield honked at Gi-Gyu and Suk-Woo.

“I think my ride is here,” Suk-Woo announced. He was about to walk toward it when Gi-Gyu murmured, “Hey.”

Suk-Woo became tense, as he recognized the intense strain in Gi-Gyu’s voice. He asked, “What is it?” 

“...” Gi-Gyu bit his lower lip, unable to hide his discomfort. After what seemed like hours, Gi-Gyu finally opened his mouth. “What’s your code name?”

Gi-Gyu’s corny code name, Morningstar, had been bothering him since he first heard it. Had Suk-Woo gotten something much cooler, Gi-Gyu planned on protesting to Tae-Gu. But when Suk-Woo turned stiff, Gi-Gyu chuckled. 

“Pfft… You got a dumb name too, didn’t you?”

Cautiously, Suk-Woo replied, “It’s Arok… You?”

“Morningstar.” 

An odd silence fell until…

“Pfft…! Hahaha!”

Both players burst into laughter. They chuckled like kids before parting ways.

***

After leaving Suk-Woo, Gi-Gyu was on his way home with Sung-Hoon. As he relaxed in the plush passenger seat, fatigue engulfed him. Killing fellow humans instead of monsters was more stressful than he anticipated. Then, Tae-Shik’s question began circling his mind.

‘Are you confident that you won’t turn into an animal?’ 

Gi-Gyu closed his eyes and smiled. 

‘Yes, that will never happen.’

Based on what had happened with the Smurf Guild, he was now certain. When he was killing those red players, he didn’t feel the pleasure he felt before. The guilt also wasn’t there. As he killed those criminals, Gi-Gyu noticed he wasn’t feeling an ounce of hesitation. 

So, he was now certain that Tae-Shik’s worst-case scenario would never come to pass. 

Oh, almost forget that Choi Min-Suk was successfully egofied.’ 

Gi-Gyu’s current goal was to climb the Tower and learn everything about Egos. He believed learning about Egos and Ego fragments was the key to becoming even stronger. 

Sung-Hoon asked, “So you’ve been staying on the 29th floor all this time?”

Gi-Gyu had already told him the gist of what happened inside the Tower. Gi-Gyu replied, “Yes, I’ve mostly just been hunting, as I wanted to confirm something.” 

‘Lou.’ 

Lou had still not awakened, and that made Gi-Gyu very nervous. That was a big part of why Gi-Gyu had been hunting mindlessly in the Tower. He found that hunting helps in relieving stress. 

“Even so, I don’t think spending all of your time hunting is a good idea, Player Kim Gi-Gyu. I know you’re a powerful player, but you must remember that you’re human first.” Sung-Hoon glanced at Gi-Gyu with worry as he continued, “I hope you learn to enjoy your life.”

“Thank you.” Gi-Gyu felt grateful to Sung-Hoon since he could feel genuine care in Sung-Hoon’s voice. Sung-Hoon added, “You should also learn to spend your wealth on yourself and your family. Don’t just pile your money; enjoy it a little.”

“All right. Would you like a bonus?” When Gi-Gyu joked, Sung-Hoon seemed a little flustered as he answered, “Well, if you insist…”

Gi-Gyu chuckled in amusement, and Sung-Hoon also changed the subject with a smile. He asked, “Ah, did you see that famous player inside the Tower?”

“Who?”

“We got many reports about this weirdo who had been massacring the 29th-floor monsters. The other players suspect that he is a red player. They described a tall man carrying red and white swords. This weirdo was supposedly wearing an unusual necklace, and umm… Except for the messy beard, it actually sounded like you…”

After mumbling for a moment, Sung-Hoon suddenly sighed and muttered, “It was you, wasn’t it?”

“Yes,” Gi-Gyu replied with a grin. 


1. Soondae is a type of blood sausage in Korean cuisine, a popular street food.

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