Chapter 61. Test and Awakening

“Ahh… This is driving me crazy…” muttered Gi-Gyu when he saw the mirror after taking a shower. 

-But I think you look beautiful! I like it!

Brunheart chimed in merrily. 

“But it stands out too much! I mean, violet?” The color had softened a bit, but there was no mistaking it: His right eye was still a vivacious violet color. Gi-Gyu felt troubled by his unique look. 

‘Am I part cat? Why do I have heterochromia?’ 

“I also don’t like wearing lenses.” His model-like appearance was already drawing more eyes than he liked; now, he was even more noticeable. 

Since he couldn’t find a solution to his problem, he decided to leave it for now and left the washroom. 

When Yoo-Jung saw him, she waved at him and greeted, “Yo! Foreigner! Hi! Hello!” 

She was wearing a short-sleeved shirt and shorts; she was sitting on the sofa leisurely. 

“Are you itching for a beating?” Gi-Gyu muttered while pressing his temples in frustration. Yoo-Jung used to be such an obedient little sister; what happened to her? 

“Why did your eye color change?” Yoo-Jung asked as Gi-Gyu pushed her legs away and sat on the sofa next to her. He replied, “Who knows? But it’s stressing me out.”

“Oppa, you should really become a celebrity. You have become so handsome, and now with that pretty eye… Look at me and listen carefully.” Yoo-Jung turned toward him and continued, “A pretty boy who overcame his difficult circumstances and became a powerful player! An odd-eyed beauty! A brother with an even more beautiful sister! This could be your angle!”

Gi-Gyu's answer was a light smack to her head. Glaring at him, Yoo-Jung protested, “Oppa! I told you not to hit my head!”

“Well, it’s not like you’re studying for anything right now,” replied Gi-Gyu in a calm voice as he leaned back on the sofa. He slept very well last night, but he still felt exhausted.

He planned on taking care of a few errands before returning to the Tower this time. 

Yoo-Jung argued, “You’re wrong! I’ve been studying very hard lately! Here I was actually making an effort to spend time with you, but you…!” 

“Sure, whatever.”

“Kids, are you fighting again?” Su-Jin asked. She was in the kitchen, cooking up a storm for them while humming a merry tune. Their mother spent most of her time home, so cooking became her new hobby. 

“Have you watched the Player News lately, Oppa?” Yoo-Jung changed the channel to what Gi-Gyu used to watch every day in the past. He was in no mood for player gossip, but it had been long since he watched it, so he decided to check if there was anything worth knowing. 

-The association president has finally revealed his secret identity.

-The association plans to change its policies. It’s time we find out the details. The question is, will the changes be all good?

-The Cain Guild has annihilated the Smurf Guild—one of the most brutal red player guilds!

-Everyone is praising the Cain Guild for making such a great accomplishment after recently becoming one of the top ten Korean guilds.

The Player News channel was listing all the hot topics, and Gi-Gyu almost laughed as he watched.

I’m involved in all the headlines.’

Lately, he had noticed that he was involved in all the breaking news one way and another. In the past, Gi-Gyu had zero influence; he was one of many players and nothing more. But now, he was so powerful that everything he did ended up on the news. Of course, only a few people knew of his involvement in these events. 

“Oh! This is great! I got worried every time you entered the Tower because of those red players; now, I feel so much better, Oppa! Players like those need to disappear from this world!” Yoo-Jung announced with excitement.

‘I’m working on that, Yoo-Jung,’ Gi-Gyu thought. He was never one to brag, and he knew the truth would only make his family worry even more. So all he did was smile and close his eyes. 

Their mother added, “I was worried about those red players too, Gi-Gyu. I’m so glad they’re gone. Those evil players make the families of all innocent players worry day and night.” 

Gi-Gyu opened his eyes and continued to watch the news. 

-The Smurf Guild master, Choi Min-Suk, is reported dead.

Gi-Gyu wasn’t thrilled after all that killing—he wasn’t sad either. 

***

After a long-overdue rest, Gi-Gyu headed to Old Man Hwang’s workshop. 

“What happened to your eye?” The elderly man asked the moment he saw Gi-Gyu. Gi-Gyu’s appearance had changed drastically, so the surprise was warranted. Gi-Gyu made up an excuse with a sigh, and the older man nodded in understanding. 

Old Man Hwang explained, “Some items can change eye color like that, but I suppose those won’t help you since you can’t use player items.”

“Unfortunately, you’re right.”

Gi-Gyu couldn’t use player items due to his Egos, so he didn’t even consider them for his problem. 

Old Man Hwang asked, “What brings you here today? It has been such a long time.” The elderly man seemed a bit upset with Gi-Gyu’s delayed visit. 

Gi-Gyu apologized, “I’m sorry I haven’t come here in a while. I was swamped.”

“Khmm!” Old Man Hwang cleared his throat awkwardly. He didn’t mean to reveal how he missed Gi-Gyu. “Well, I know how busy you must’ve been. I saw you on TV.”

“Khmm!” It was now Gi-Gyu’s turn to clear his throat in embarrassment. He should’ve known Old Man Hwang could easily identify the masked player. After all, the elderly man made weapons for a living—how could his sharp eyes miss that? Gi-Gyu even suspected that Old Man Hwang’s eyes were sharper than most players. 

Gi-Gyu announced, “That’s why I’m here, Sir.”

“Hmm?” When Old Man Hwang narrowed his eyes in question, Gi-Gyu explained, “I need to find a way to hide my rings.”

“I see.” The elderly man nodded as he eyed Gi-Gyu’s rings. They were indeed unique with their beautiful glow. One look, and anyone could tell they weren’t ordinary accessories. 

Old Man Hwang drew the curtain to a smaller room and announced, “Gloves and gauntlets are stored over here.”

The tiny room was connected to the main workshop, but it was neatly separated to provide extra storage. Curious, Gi-Gyu asked, “Sir, you must have enough money to move, so why don’t you? I’m sure you can afford a much bigger and better workshop.”

Just the money Gi-Gyu had paid him should’ve been enough for the old man to move to a fancy building in a much better location. Shaking his head, the blacksmith replied, “I have my reasons, so please don’t ask me that question again.”

Gi-Gyu nodded in understanding. He didn’t really care where the elderly man worked as long as he could purchase the blacksmith’s Egos. 

By the way, I haven’t seen Min-Su in a while either.’

Old Man Hwang’s grandson, Min-Su, often strutted around the workshop; lately, he had been absent. Gi-Gyu remembered the elderly man mentioning Min-Su’s father, so he assumed the boy must be with him. 

Returning to the matter at hand, Gi-Gyu carefully examined the gloves and gauntlets. Old Man Hwang watched with interest and asked, “Last time you were here, you couldn’t sync with many of my weapons. So what changed?”

“I have my ways, Sir.” 

Gi-Gyu only purchased Bi and Hermes during his last visit because he couldn’t sync with the other pseudo Egos. The elixir had improved his “shell," so he could now sync with more than three Egos. However, that wasn’t all: Brunheart was the one who truly knocked that “three Ego limit” out of the park. 

So you’re saying obtaining that gate Ego has increased my sync potential?’

El admitted that she had never encountered a gate Ego until she met Brunheart. Usually, a normal Ego would eat up Gi-Gyu’s sync potential. However, Brunheart had actually boosted his ability to sync, allowing him to sync with even more Egos. In other words, if Brunheart became stronger, Gi-Gyu’s sync potential could also increase. 

With this thought, Gi-Gyu continued to examine Old Man Hwang’s work. He complimented the elderly man, “Sir, you have such beautiful taste.”

The blacksmith’s weapons were works of art. Ever since he purchased the old Brunheart, Bi, and Hermes, Gi-Gyu couldn't help admiring the elegant pieces. 

“Haha, of course, they are. A true craftsman must be able to create works that are both beautiful and functional.” Old Man Hwang seemed happy, but Gi-Gyu was troubled. He needed an item to hide his extravagant rings, but the elderly man’s works were even more conspicuous. Gi-Gyu wanted something unremarkable so he could wear it every day. 

When Gi-Gyu picked up a pair of gauntlets, Old Man Hwang said, “Good choice.” The pair was the most inconspicuous item that also looked the most functional. When he tried the black gauntlet, he realized it was very flexible, allowing his fingers to move freely.

“Sync,” Gi-Gyu murmured. 

[Please name the Ego.]

Thanks to his newfound strength, the weapons inside Old Man Hwang’s workshop no longer rejected Gi-Gyu. And with his increased sync potential, syncing with more Egos wasn’t a problem. 

“Oberon.” 

[You have synced with Oberon.]

[You can now access Oberon’s information.]

The pair of gauntlets, now named Oberon, glowed brightly, indicating the sync was a success. Gi-Gyu quickly accessed its status screen.

[Oberon]

[Level 27]

[Power: 40]

[Speed: 30]

[Stamina: 12]

[Magic: 8]

-Abilities-

[Accessory]

[Force: Can temporarily increase strength.]

[Can increase basic strength by 1%.]

“Oh!” Gi-Gyu exclaimed in admiration. The buff Oberon brought was befitting of such a beautiful gauntlet. On top of that, the skill named “Force” was something only damage dealers possessed. It temporarily increased the user’s strength, and it was known to be a very effective skill. And also why many rankers used it frequently.

Creak, creak…

Gi-Gyu tried clenching a few times. It felt a little uncomfortable because the gauntlets were new, but he knew getting used to them would take no time. 

“Lou, El,” Gi-Gyu called out his Egos’ names. Now, he had to see if Lou and El could transform into their sword form even when he was wearing the gauntlets. At Gi-Gyu’s command, black smoke escaped Oberon’s metallic joints; Lou and El soon appeared in his hands. 

“Good.”

The last thing was to check Oberon’s accessory form. There was no way Gi-Gyu could wear the pair of gauntlets everywhere. Lou and El returned to their ring forms, and the black gauntlets also slowly transformed. 

“I guess they turn into bracelets.”

The gauntlets disappeared and were replaced by a bracelet on each of his wrists. They were made of some unknown black metal, and ebony flowers adorned them. Gi-Gyu clenched his fists to check the fit. Overall, he was satisfied with his new Ego.

“Do you like them?” Old Man Hwang asked.

“Yes, Sir.”

“Tsk, tsk… At this point, all my babies seem tailor-made for you. Since my children no longer reject you, they will be here forever, waiting for you to choose them.” When the blacksmith murmured sadly, Gi-Gyu couldn’t help but feel guilty. 

Old Man Hwang was right: Any Egos Gi-Gyu didn’t choose would be stuck in this workshop for eternity. Gi-Gyu wished he could sync with all of them, but it was not possible at the moment. 

“I will work hard to use all of your weapons someday, Sir.”

“I would appreciate that.'' Old Man Hwang’s eyes shined with appreciation. 

Admiring his new bracelets, Gi-Gyu asked, “How much should I pay for Oberon?”

It was time to pay for his purchase. But to Gi-Gyu’s surprise, the blacksmith shook his head and replied, “Don’t worry about it.”

“Pardon?” asked Gi-Gyu with a confused face. Old Man Hwang was a true craftsman who loved and treasured his works. That was why he priced his weapons accordingly. From his very first purchase, Gi-Gyu became used to paying a large sum of money to the blacksmith for his works. The elderly man was a savvy businessman, so this was an unexpected answer. 

Old Man Hwang asked with a serious look on his face, “Instead, will you help me in the future if I am in need?”

“If it’s something I can do—”

“All right, that’s good enough. If you give me your promise, I will consider Oberon fully paid.” The blacksmith turned around with a nod, dismissing Gi-Gyu. Watching the elderly man’s back, Gi-Gyu realized something.

‘He’s going to ask me for something complicated in the future, isn't he?’’

Gi-Gyu had received an incredible weapon, so he knew Old Man Hwang’s future request would be equally incredible. Then again, it would’ve been difficult for him to refuse the blacksmith’s boon even without this exchange. After all, Old Man Hwang was the only one who could make pseudo Egos for him. 

After bowing deeply to the elderly man’s back, Gi-Gyu left the workshop. As he climbed the stairs to exit the building, he murmured, “I’ve finally completed my preparation.”

Gi-Gyu was now ready to take the 30th-floor test.

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