Chapter 15 - Veterans Of The Tower (2)

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Everyone’s words of introduction were accompanied by the sound of ice being stirred in coffee.

MrBaldHuman’s real name was Lee Taemin.

He is currently a student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Korea University.

‘Hold on a minute. How? He played games hardcore in high school and still ended up attending such a good university?’

It was a university that even people who studied for 10 hours a day would find difficult to enter.

This guy’s amazing.

In many ways.

‘Now then, shall I take a look at his abilities?’

Jin-hyuk clicked his tongue and activated the ‘Eye of Truth.’

Name: Lee Taemin
Gender: Male
Age: 23
Level: 11
Strength 12 Agility 15 Stamina 16 Magic 21
Stats Points: 0
Coins Held: 2,500
Occupation: None
Unique Ability: Machine King
Skills: Lv2' Sandbox Mode' Lv2' Command', Lv2' Hacking'

‘As expected, he has this skill.’

Jin-hyuk narrowed his eyes.

Machine King.

A unique ability specialized for using large-scale equipment.

In the past, Lee Taemin had enjoyed using this skill to do wide-area hunting in the game. He was a well-balanced type.

It was an ability that was useful but consumed too much mana.

Then the next person…

Jin-hyuk moved his gaze towards the woman.

Her real name was Yoo Yeon-hwa.

It was his first name hearing the name, but it felt familiar. Which family did she belong to?

Well, after her short introduction, that small mystery was resolved.

Yoo Cheon-young.

He’s a living legend in the world of martial arts who shocked the world with his taekwondo skills.

Yoo Yeon-hwa was that man’s granddaughter.

‘She should be the granddaughter who didn’t hurt people at all.’

But when they played [Tower of Trials] together, she used to go around beating up 7-meter tall giants with just her bare hands.

After seeing her now, it felt natural. She shared that man’s blood, after all.

Jin-hyuk used the Eye of Truth once again.

Name: Yoo Yeon-hwa
Gender: Female
Age: 25
Level: 12
Strength 25 Agility 22 Stamina 17 Magic 5
Stats Points: 0
Coins Held: 4,775
Occupation: None
Unique Ability:Supreme Shock Taekwondo
Skills: Lv3' Heavenly Flower Cultivation' Lv2 'Never back Down' Lv2 Magic Enhancement.

She was interesting as well, a combination of a super close-range damage dealer and a tanker.

Her ability and skills were something that matched her well. Seeing their similar levels, the two of them must have been hunting together.

Well, the two of them did get along well in the past.

[Copy Condition: Both players are your long-time colleagues. When all three players reach the 20th floor of the tower, the player would be able to copy Lee Taemin and Yoo Yeon-hwa's unique abilities.]

Jin-hyuk, who read the copy condition, nodded his head.

Was it because these abilities belonged to veterans? It seemed like copying them wouldn’t happen easily.

‘It will be quite difficult.’

But it didn’t matter.

He would be able to copy their skills once the three of them reach the 20th floor.

“Hyung, what are you doing? It’s your turn, right?”

Lee Taemin tilted his head from his seat in front of Jin-hyuk.

Jin-hyuk, who had been nodding into the air, must have looked strange as other people were unaware of the Eyes of Truth.

“I am Kang Jin-hyuk. 27 years old, and I used to be a BJ on Paprika TV.”

“Oh hyung, you were a BJ? If it’s Paprika TV, I sometimes watch it too! A game? Or did you mukbang? Hyung is handsome, so you must have decent viewer numbers.”

Taemin asked him with a smile.

No matter how much they played together in the game, this was their first meeting in the real world. Yet, this guy didn’t seem to care about being cautious with strangers.

“Yes. But I’ve quit now.”

“Ehh. Just relax, hyung. It’s not like we just played together two or three times for you to be ashamed.”

“Right. Be comfortable.”

That did help him a little. Both of them were good people.

‘I also thought our relationship wouldn’t be damaged just because I was a BJ.’

No, maybe because he had been around people who always backstabbed him, he ended up building walls.

Weighing the profits.

A month of relentless feeling like a knife was held against his neck. He got so used to that feeling that kindness felt awkward.

‘Companions… It had been a while since I thought of such a thing.’

Jin-hyuk smiled and nodded.

“Yes.”


The awkwardness gradually subsided as the three spoke to each other, letting Jin-hyuk be a bit more active.

The fragrance of the coffee wasn’t bad either…

What?

There were a lot more things that he wanted to eat, so he looked for famous restaurants that served pork belly.

When he felt the taste of the stew that was filled with thick, golden, shining meat and tofu touch his lips, he almost cried.

‘Moss and mushrooms are completely different from this.’

Often there were scenes in novels where people who returned after being transmigrated into another world for hundreds of years break down crying while eating Korean food.

But in reality, you didn’t have to be gone for a hundred years.

It was just human nature to go so far as selling their soul for a single Choco Pie if they had been left on a mountain and fed nothing but grass.

His mind suddenly went back to the training camps of military service.

Memories of the church on Sundays.

Ah! Come to think of it.

Another thing he wanted to eat came to his mind.

“There was a Ver below. How about buying ice cream for dessert?”

“Ice cream!”

“Since hyung and noona paid here. I will buy it. What flavor?”

Lee Taemin got up from his seat first.

“Mint Choco.”

JIn-hyuk answered without hesitation, and the two frowned.

“Ugh, that toothpaste flavor?”

“Hyung is quite different. It is like brushing teeth after a meal.”

These brats…

Don’t you know that mint and chocolate were the best combination?

Anything else can be left behind but not this!

“Do not curse at mint chocolate again.”

It was a flavor with a concrete supporting layer and base, making it harder to make compared to other flavors.


As they ate, Jin-hyuk heard what had happened during the past month.

Most of the interesting topics surrounded the birth of various guilds and the tower’s resources.

They also talked about the policies of different nations and the value of the system coins.

Not a single bit of important information was missed.

“As you know, most of the guilds that played the game regrouped..”

Lee Taemin moved his finger.

And…

Woong!

[Lee Taemin activates Lv2 Sandbox Mode]

Seven objects appeared in the air.

America’s ‘Titan,’ Europe’s ‘Olympus,’ China’s ‘People’s Republic,’ Japan’s ‘Samurai,’ India’s ‘Gandara’ and finally, Korea’s ‘Dagun’ and ‘Father of Fighting.’

The objects were the symbols of the guilds, which represented each nation.

Yoo Yeon-hwa nodded as she looked at them.

“I guess everyone knows. It is advantageous to monopolize the information among only guild members.”

Right. At least the players in the guilds weren’t stupidly giving that up.

They would not accept new members into the guild nor release any advanced information in their possession.

“How about the BJs? There must be people who rake in coins while working as freelancers?”

Lee Taemin’s face darkened at the question.

“Yes. Celebrities who have been active in the past are trying to hoard viewers by putting themselves out there. Besides, this is just a rumor, but it seems like there are people trying to operate a Coin Factory like what happened in the past. They say this group is called Demon, and talk about them are raging in the news these days.”

“… they must be insane.”

“Right. If they get caught, life in prison would feel nice by comparison.”

Coin Factory.

In a word, it was a place that forced people to watch a specific person’s video for the sake of views.

In the past, it didn’t matter because NPCs took over that role in the game, but not anymore.

If people were locked in a factory or studio and made to do this for the sake of coins, the government wouldn’t stand still either.

But Jin-hyuk was sure that Lee Taemin’s words weren’t just rumors.

The world has changed.

Common sense that everyone accepted had been shattered.

This meant that the future couldn’t be judged by how the past worked.

A warning.

They both should know about that person.

“If the two of you go together, the chances of being beaten are low, but I will tell you anyway.”

Jin-hyuk slowly said.

“A month back, I met the Knife-man.”

“Ugh!?”

“That leech?”

They both yelled back. Yah! Softy!

Everyone was staring!

But the questions continued to come without care.

“W-where?”

“Oppa. Does that person also pull out a knife in real life?”

Completed Sword.

He was a ranker who used sword techniques combined with barriers in a terrifying combination.

They often met when playing Tower of Trials. There was no talking, and they just attacked each other.

Of course, every time they fought, Jin-hyuk made sure that the Completed Sword lost. Did he kill that guy over 100 times?

Ordinary people would have given up.

But the problem was that the guy had either a goal or a sense of rivalry…

He fell into a strange delusion and kept coming.

‘Exactly right behind me.’

It was no joke. The guy would stalk him when sleeping, eating, and even when using the washroom so he couldn’t even shut his eyes in peace.

“Not face to face. When I went, he had already vanished from the Museum with the Iron Sword of Qianlong.”

“That guy too aimed for the replica… no, wait. Then you went there too? Didn’t they say it looked like hell?”

“I’ve had a feeling for a while, but, oppa, you have a really strong heart. How did you even get the idea to go there?”

“I went because I had something to take. Well, be careful. We can’t tell who he is from his appearance, but we’ll be able to figure out who he is if we see his unique abilities or skills.”

This was why bringing back abilities you used in the game was a double-edged sword. While there was the advantage of familiarity, it gave up the player’s identity.

“Yes. Thanks for letting me know.”

“Phew. We need to be careful. I don’t know about oppa, but I am a bit scared…”

Both of them sighed a little.

It seemed like the terrible memories of the past were running in their heads. At this point, it appeared the information sharing was over too.

“Should we end it for today?”

Jin-hyuk leaned in his chair.

One minute and one second of pity

Eating and drinking were enough

“Uh? Already?”

“It is 9 o’clock already.”

Starting tomorrow, he needed to climb the Tower. Besides, he had returned after a month, so he wanted to take a hot bath and sleep in a proper bed.

The two reluctantly got up.

“But hyung. You said you have been away for a month, right?”

“I did.”

“Then you weren’t tested?”

“Test…?”

What test?

At his reaction, they both looked like they expected this.

“As the death toll increased from the 2nd floor onwards, only those who passed the test in the Awakened Association could go there.”

“A kind of verification…”

Yoo Yeon-hwa showed her wrist.

It was a barcode that looked like a tattoo.

Oh, look at this.

So, they wanted to stop idiots from dying inside. Well, could it only mean that?

If a justification was given, it would undoubtedly reduce the public’s reluctance to take the test.

Reduce the number of victims.

But what was the higher purpose here?

What was the true purpose?

It was to identify any hidden talents.

‘To be precise, they wanted to bring talented players to their side.’

Suddenly, he thought of the first day the tower appeared.

‘Han Sang-jin was it? That man who called himself the head? President of the Awakened Association?’

He couldn’t forget his shallow tactics of trying to gather awakened players through a news broadcast.

“The place to take the test. Where is it?”

It was an excellent chance to see how much he had grown over the years

No.

‘The ocean I have been longing for.’

Ba-dump!

Jin-hyuk’s heart began to beat a little faster.

This system created by the Awakened Association.

There was a way to use it.

‘To my advantage.’

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