Chapter 62. Test and Awakening (2)

Gi-Gyu no longer had any excuses to procrastinate taking the 30th-floor test. Suk-Woo’s problem was for Suk-Woo to deal with, the public had lost much of its interest in the masked ranker by now, and no one from the Smurf Guild could come after Gi-Gyu now. So, now was the perfect time.

With his new Egos, Gi-Gyu was ready to take the 30th-floor test.

“Haa…” Gi-Gyu exhaled deeply. Ever since he decided to take the test, he had been feeling an overwhelming sense of anxiety. It was growing with each passing day, so he had been unconsciously delaying taking the test until now. 

-Don’t be so nervous!

Brunheart exclaimed with his usual cheerfulness.

-I’m sure you’ll be all right, Master.

El reassured Gi-Gyu.

Why am I so nervous?’

This emotional state was alien to him. The ominous feeling told him that taking this test would mean losing something. However, one of Gi-Gyu’s goals was to ascend the Tower. He had to pass this test to continue climbing the Tower: It was that simple. So, he couldn’t halt his progress based on a vaguely ominous feeling. He wished aloud, “I hope the 30th-floor test is the same as all the other tests.”

For some unknown reason, the difficulty levels of all the tests he took till now were lowered. Hoping for more of the same, Gi-Gyu headed out.

***

“Player Kim Gi-Gyu!” Sung-Hoon greeted Gi-Gyu the moment he arrived at the association building. It seemed that every time Gi-Gyu decided to enter the Tower, Song-Hoon magically appeared to accompany him. But this couldn’t be the case, could it?

Gi-Gyu asked, “Do you wait for me here every day?”

“Yes.” As it turned out, Gi-Gyu’s guess was a fact. When he gaped, Sung-Hoon smiled and explained, “You know my job is to manage your life, don’t you, Player Kim Gi-Gyu? And except for meeting you at your home for personal errands, where else can I see you? The Tower, of course.” 

Noticing that Gi-Gyu still looked confused, Sung-Hoon added, “When it’s time to go to work, I just come here and wait for you.”

“I…I find that mildly creepy.” Gi-Gyu felt a bit uncomfortable by Sung-Hoon’s reply. 

Pointing at Oberon, Sung-Hoon asked, “New set of gauntlets? A recent purchase?”

“Yes,” mumbled Gi-Gyu. Unwilling to talk details, he quickly changed the subject and asked, “Sung-Hoon, don’t you go hunting at all?”

“Sometimes, I get dispatched to a gate, so yes. I also go inside the Tower when I get a chance, so you don’t have to worry. I’m doing fine on my own. My job may be to take care of you, Player Kim Gi-Gyu, but I will always be a player first.”

“You must lead a busy life,” murmured Gi-Gyu. It appeared that Sung-Hoon’s life was just as busy as Gi-Gyu's. 

With a wide grin, Sung-Hoon shrugged and replied, “Not as busy as you, Player Kim Gi-Gyu. Are you going hunting again today? When will you be returning?” Sung-Hoon took out his phone and opened the calendar app. 

He can’t possibly enjoy making me uncomfortable, right…?’ Gi-Gyu thought awkwardly. Gi-Gyu didn’t like being burdened by unnecessary interest and attention, and Sung-Hoon knew this very well. Yet, it seemed Sung-Hoon enjoyed every second of his misery. 

Noticing Gi-Gyu’s growing discomfort, Sung-Hoon continued with determination, “Basically, I’m to dedicate my very being to you as your manager. So, my interest in your life shouldn’t make you uncomfortable, Player Kim Gi-Gyu. Please, just tell me your schedule. Tell me how you spend every waking moment of your day, so I can assist you as best as I can!” 

When Sung-Hoon emphasized the word “dedicated,” Gi-Gyu sighed, “Haa…”

Gi-Gyu rubbed his forehead as if he was getting a headache. He didn’t want to encourage Sung-Hoon’s teasing way, but he had to admit that it was best for his “manager” to know his schedule.

Gi-Gyu replied, “I’m going into the Tower to take the 30th-floor test. So I don’t know when I’ll be back.”

“The test?” Sung-Hoon’s eyes shined.

“Yes.”

“What an exciting time. I’m looking forward to how strong you’ll become after you pass this test, Player Kim Gi-Gyu.” 

All players received a special reward after clearing a test inside the Tower. This was the rule in the player world. 

However, Gi-Gyu seemed like an exception to this rule: He didn’t receive a reward after clearing the 10th-floor test. Instead, the difficulty level of the test was decreased. So, Gi-Gyu believed he wouldn’t get anything from the 30th-floor test either. 

Of course, Sung-Hoon didn’t know about this, which was why he was so expectant. Gi-Gyu replied, “I hope I become stronger too.”

“Well, you’re already very strong, so I don’t think you have anything to worry about. Don’t be nervous about this test, and have fun. The 30th-floor test should be too easy for you to pass, Player Kim Gi-Gyu.” When Sung-Hoon suggested lightly, Gi-Gyu murmured, “All right.”

Unfortunately, he still couldn’t shake off the ominous feeling.

***

Currently, Gi-Gyu was on the 29th floor; he was very familiar with this floor because he had spent a lot of time here. The floors above the 50th were almost as big as a small country; the 29th floor was only the size of a small city. 

Gi-Gyu had visited the door to the 30th floor before, so he just rushed there. No one, monsters and humans alike, dared to stop him. There were roars and whispers, but he reached the door without any interruptions. 

“Hmm…” Gi-Gyu moaned as he stood in front of the steel door. His hands shook, and he instinctively knew that his body was giving him a clear warning.

“Why… do I feel this way? What’s going on?” No matter how hard he thought about this, he couldn’t come up with an answer. 

Shiver.

His hands still shaking, Gi-Gyu grabbed the steel door and pulled it open. The heavy door moved slowly, and inside was a whole new universe that humans would find hard to imagine.

“Let’s go inside!” Gi-Gyu announced, hoping it would calm his shaking body. 

El replied, 

-I am happy to go anywhere you go, Master.

Brunheart added,

-Me too! You’re the best, Master!

Gi-Gyu chuckled and took a step forward. The second he was inside the test area, some invisible force closed the steel door behind him.

Creak!

***

[You have entered the test chamber.]

[You have satisfied all requirements.]

[You are qualified to take the test.]

Gi-Gyu heard the familiar system sound announcing his entrance. He waited for the system to state the decrease in the difficulty level, but…

[A special test will take place.]

An unfamiliar system voice announced, and Gi-Gyu suddenly found himself floating in darkness. He still had full control over his body, but moving freely became difficult. Soon, the darkness disappeared, and a frustrated murmur escaped Gi-Gyu’s lips. “I knew it.”

The ominous feeling was proving itself a soothsayer.

“Instead of lowering the test difficulty level, it’s giving me a special test.” Gi-Gyu had no idea what this even meant. Unhurriedly, he checked his bag and equipment; thankfully, nothing was lost. 

“Well, I guess I’ve still got everything.” 

Then, Gi-Gyu looked around and found himself in unfamiliar badlands. Fine particles of sand flew around as he stood alone in the middle of nowhere. When he squinted, he saw something very far away.

“Is that… a castle?”

He spotted a black castle and knew immediately he had to go there. The system announcement didn’t give him any other instructions, so all he could do was begin walking. 

“I guess that’s where the test will occur,” murmured Gi-Gyu as he swung his hands. He didn’t have to call them; Lou and El just appeared in his hands. He had never formally trained using double swords, but he was now an expert in using them. 

“Let’s go!” Gi-Gyu kicked the ground and began running.

-Yes, Master.

-I’m all in!

It looked like the castle was quite a distance away. Gi-Gyu was certain monsters would attack him on the way, so he decided to shorten the trip by rushing there. 

“Kerrrk!” Several scorpions popped out from different areas of the badlands. 

“Guess I’m hunting giant scorpions today,” murmured Gi-Gyu. A giant scorpion was the size of three cars. With its red shell and poisonous sting, a giant scorpion was a menacing monster. 

Five scorpions simultaneously attacked Gi-Gyu, but he didn’t panic. Also, the sand was slowing him down and preventing him from going full speed.

“Kerrrk! Kerrrk!” The scorpions swarmed toward Gi-Gyu viciously. Their stings stretched like rubber bands as they targeted his body, but he dodged them with ease.

Thwack!

The poison sting struck the spot Gi-Gyu was standing a moment ago. 

“Hup.” Gi-Gyu controlled his breath expertly. He learned this a long time ago: Well-controlled breathing could make him more sensitive to oncoming attacks. He could also deliver more accurate attacks, thanks to it. 

Fwoosh!

Another scorpion’s poison sting flew toward Gi-Gyu as it pierced the air sharply. He turned midair to dodge it and plunged Lou into one of the monsters.

Crack!

He used his fall and Lou to cleave the scorpion’s hard shell.

“Kerrrkkk!” the giant scorpion screamed in agony. While he dealt with this scorpion, the other monsters didn’t bother to attack him. They seemed more interested in the battle taking place. With Accelerate in effect, Gi-Gyu moved even faster as he activated his other skills.

“Force.” It was the skill he gained from his newest Ego, Oberon. Before long, a strength he had never felt before began coursing through his body. 

Skills are the best!’ Gi-Gyu thought gleefully. He used his increased strength to plunge Lou into the flailing scorpion that had just lost its poisonous sting. 

Crunch!

The scorpion spasmed for a moment before disappearing, leaving behind a crystal alone. When Gi-Gyu tried to pick it up, the other scorpions came to their senses and decided that it was high time they attacked him. 

“Kerrrk!” As if angered by their friend’s death, the other giant scorpions growled louder and targeted Gi-Gyu. But they were no match for him. Gi-Gyu fought back apace and destroyed the herd before long. 

***

“This can’t be the end of the special test,” Gi-Gyu whispered as he got closer to the castle. Various badlands monsters like giant scorpions and desert worms attacked him on the way, but Gi-Gyu didn’t find them difficult to handle. There was no way a “special test” would be this simple, so he knew something far more powerful was waiting inside the castle. 

“Well, there is no point in worrying about it.” He had no idea what was waiting for him, so he couldn’t prepare countermeasures and had to just face it head-on. 

Gi-Gyu began to walk a little faster as he came closer to the castle. The black castle seemed even larger and scarier as he approached it. After killing a dozen more monsters, he found himself standing before the castle. 

“Haa…” He inhaled deeply. Amid all the hunting and running, he didn’t take a single deep breath. 

Gi-Gyu slowly walked up to the massive castle entrance; it began to open as if it had been waiting for him.

Creak!

-Please be careful, Master.

-Master, take it easy!

Both El and Brunheart warned him. Like his Egos, Gi-Gyu could also feel the various auras and presences inside the gate. He didn’t dash inside; instead, he took several tentative steps. 

Rattle, rattle…

 When he heard the metallic sounds, he paused. 

“Creeekkk!” One hundred well-trained lizardmen in full armor turned toward Gi-Gyu and lined up in a militaristic formation. All their eyes held contempt and malice for their foe. 

“Haa…” Gi-Gyu sighed deeply. He wasn’t worried about their strength; he was worried about their number. Since they were well-armed and trained, Gi-Gyu knew it would take quite an effort to deal with them. He didn’t doubt himself for a second and swirled his swords while eying the monsters. 

Gi-Gyu relaxed his grip on El while stretching his hand holding Lou. 

“Creeek!” The lizardmen were also eying him with their spears aimed. 

‘Haaa…” Gi-Gyu sighed deeply once again. Even though the monsters he battled so far had been easy, his anxiety refused to dissipate. 

“Still feel so nervous…” he muttered. Just what was inside this castle that made him feel so uneasy? Inside, the spire looked even more ominous. 

Dash!

Gi-Gyu kicked the ground and sprinted toward the lizardmen. 

Clank.

“Creeekkk!” the lizardmen screamed as they also stormed toward Gi-Gyu with their spears raised high.

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