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Chapter: 90


Gi-Gyu’s politeness confused the leather-clad man, and a dazed look appeared on the man’s face before he began laughing.

"Kekeke… I can’t believe you’re being so polite to me in a situation like this. What an odd guy you are."

When Gi-Gyu remained quiet, the man asked, "Did my father send you?"

Gi-Gyu couldn’t hide his shock. He came here to save Min-Su, but the boy had been with his father all this time? So was Min-Su not kidnapped by the assailant who murdered Old Man Hwang? This whole situation was becoming too confusing.

Gi-Gyu asked, "So you’re really Old Man Hwang’s son and Min-Su’s father?"

"That’s right. I attacked my own father and brought my son, Min-Su, here."  

"But… why?" Gi-Gyu felt flabbergasted. Min-Su’s father replied, "I guess saying ‘I had no choice’ would be meaningless at this point."

The man looked around his surroundings before murmuring, "I think we still have a little time, so I’ll tell you. Since you managed to pass through the barrier, I’m sure my father sent. If my father trusts you, I suppose I can talk to you."

The man looked up at Gi-Gyu and asked, "Are you aware that the Tower is connected to another world?"

"I do… a little, S-Sir." Gi-Gyu didn’t know how he should treat Min-Su’s father. On the one hand, he killed Old Man Hwang and kidnapped Min-Su; on the other hand, he was Old Man Hwang’s son and Min-Su’s father. Suddenly, Gi-Gyu thought of something very awkward and shouted, "W-wait!"

"What is it?" 

"H-how old are you?" Gi-Gyu stammered. It might sound random, but it was a relevant question. The Tower appeared 23 years ago, and Old Man Hwang met his wife in the Tower’s basement. So, if the leather-clad man was really their son, he should be 23 at most. However, he didn’t look very young. Add Min-Su and his age into the mix, and you would get a conundrum.

Each piece of this puzzle was seemingly made of another puzzle. 

"I’m older than you." When the man answered, Gi-Gyu stuttered, "H-how is that possible…?" 

The man tilted his head and replied, "I guess Father didn’t get to tell you much."

Suddenly, the surviving masked players shouted, "Apostle! You must destroy our enemy! We must complete our ritual!" The fanatics begged, but the man in the leather jacket only looked at them blankly before continuing, "Time passes differently in that world. My father spent a very long time in that place, and so did I. But not Min-Su."

"Ah!" Gi-Gyu exclaimed, finally beginning to put together the little puzzles. He remembered Soo-Jung, Lucifer, mentioning that she was the same earth age as him. He didn’t understand this at the time, but now, it made more sense. 

Knowing this man was Min-Su’s father and Old Man Hwang’s son, Gi-Gyu felt hesitant to fight him. And the important information he willingly gave wasn’t helping Gi-Gyu decide. He could also tell the man meant him no harm, and the ones who did were busy with Bi and his skeletons. 

In the end, Gi-Gyu decided to carry on with this conversation. 

Min-Su’s father explained, "My father and Min-Su were born on earth, but I was born in the other world. I grew up there too. And creatures who live in a world different from where they were born have to suffer the penalty." 

With a bitter smile, the man caressed his face. 

Crack!

It was just for a moment, but Gi-Gyu thought he saw the man’s face crack like porcelain. And within the cracks, he could see flames burning brightly. 

The man took his hand away from his face and continued, "I contemplated for a very long time. I wondered if I should return to where I grew up and, if so, how I could accomplish it. But my father stopped me from returning to my world. He also severed any relationship we had." 

So Old Man Hwang did seal the door; for some reason, the father-son duo unpleasantly parted ways. 

The leather-clad man muttered, "I suffered so much. But I endured it for my son. Yet"—he smiled—"Andras told me that I should live my own life. I could be king in that world if I returned."

"Andras?" 

‘This curious name again?’

When Gi-Gyu asked, the man replied, "I guess you don’t know about him. Those skeleton soldiers fighting for you… Their… should I call it a leader?" 

The man’s eyes became blank as he continued to murmur incorrigibly. Lou, who had been listening quietly, explained. 

-It’s a psychic attack: Andras’ specialty. I don’t think this man can think for himself anymore. He had some natural immunity, which must be why he could endure until now. But his strength actually made things worse. His mind and Andras’ brainwashing created a whole new consciousness in his head. 

Lou seemed to be laughing at the man in the leather jacket. 

"I-I’m going to become a king. I’ll be the king, and Min-Su… Min-Su?" the man continued to murmur in confusion.

Crack!

Suddenly, Gi-Gyu realized he wasn’t mistaken about the man’s face. It really was cracking like a vase. 

The man shouted, "I-I must open the door. The offering… The offering!"

"What the…?" Gi-Gyu didn’t understand what was happening, but Lou explained. 

-It’s too late now. If El were stronger, we could’ve done something about the brainwashing, but now…

The man began to rotate his head in circles. Slowly at first, but it became faster by the second. When the surviving masked players saw this, they screamed, "The apostle is descending!"

"Run!"

"If we stay here, we’ll all die!"

The players shrieked and began running away, but the skeletons and the durahan didn’t stop stabbing their backs. The fanatics tried their best to escape, creating a bizarre sight. Meanwhile, the sudden change made Gi-Gyu study his surroundings carefully. 

One ranker-level player wearing a mask shouted, "The barrier! We must remove the barrier so we can escape! We must get out of here!" 

Gi-Gyu had no time to waste since he had to figure out the mystery that the leather-clad man was. 

Gi-Gyu activated his evil eye, turning his eyes a dark violet. The man’s face was melting and cracking simultaneously now; his entire body gave off extreme heat as if he was burning alive.

[Flame Giant]

The stat screen above the man’s head indicated his true name. Suddenly, the man bulged as a colossal flame pillar engulfed him.

***

"Where did you go…?" Sung-Hoon murmured. When he heard Gi-Gyu was heading toward the Tower, he followed immediately. But when he arrived, he couldn’t find Gi-Gyu anywhere. Every floor of the Tower had portal maintenance agents, so finding Gi-Gyu should’ve been easy, but he was nowhere to be found. 

All Sung-Hoon knew was that Gi-Gyu was inside the Tower somewhere. He couldn’t have been too far behind, so where did Gi-Gyu go?

"He has to be on the 1st floor somewhere," muttered Sung-Hoon. Since none of the portal workers knew where Gi-Gyu was, Sung-Hoon could only roam around. 

Feeling frustrated, Sung-Hoon sighed, "Haa…How did he go missing in an active landmark like the 1st floor?"

If Sung-Hoon failed to find Gi-Gyu soon, he would be in big trouble as he would get a scolding from the association president himself. 

Just when Sung-Hoon was about to drown in frustration, a familiar agent ran toward him and yelled, "Agent Heo Sung-Hoon!"

Right now, there was only one reason an agent would look for him. So, boundless relief filled Sung-Hoon as he asked, "Did you find him?"

The agent shook his head and replied, "No… That’s not it."

"Then what is it?!"

"There is a barrier on the 1st floor! It’s gone now, but…"

"But what?" Sung-Hoon asked, but the agent was too busy panting. Sung-Hoon understood that the agent probably ran here, but did he have to pause at such a dramatic moment? After taking a few more gulps of air, the agent continued, "Skeletons and a durahan! The area is filled with skeletons, and we’ve even received reports of a giant fire." 

Sung-Hoon became visibly rigid. He asked in a panic, "Where?!"

After hearing the location, Sung-Hoon decided to rush there; before leaving, he turned around and ordered, "Call the general manager of the Department of Gate Maintenance (DGM). Inform General Manager Oh Tae-Shik about this! Tell him there is an emergency on the 1st floor! Tell him we need Grigory!"

"Grigory…?" the agent murmured in confusion.

"Just tell him; he’ll know!"

"Y-yes, Sir!" 

While sprinting toward his destination, Sung-Hoon muttered, "Just what are you doing?" 

***

The masked players deactivated the barrier to escape. Even though Gi-Gyu now didn’t have to worry about the barrier, he didn’t feel all that happy. 

Kaboom!

The flame giant slammed down its right hand, narrowly missing Gi-Gyu. 

"Haa…" Gi-Gyu sighed and repositioned himself, but things were getting worse. With each passing second, the flame giant got crazier, and the heat went up a notch. Lou’s flame resistance helped initially; now, it wasn’t as effective. 

"Is this hellfire or something?" Gi-Gyu murmured before shaking his head. To non-players, it might feel like flames from hell. However, Gi-Gyu knew better since he had seen real hellfire before. 

Boom!

"Haa…" He sighed again and jumped to avoid the attack. Using his senses, he figured out the other players’ locations. There weren’t many survivors, and the skeletons, the durahan, and Bi were still hunting them. 

"Just the gate monsters should be enough for them," Gi-Gyu murmured before calling quietly, "Bi."

He could sense Bi rushing toward him; before he knew it, Bi was around his neck in his necklace form. As he dodged the flame giant’s fist again, he shouted, "Elemental Water!"

Suddenly, Gi-Gyu turned into water, and his speed increased. His hands, now made of water drops, still held Lou and El firmly. Finally ready, Gi-Gyu crashed into the flame giant. 

Kaboommm!

The collision of a hot and a cold force created an explosion so loud and massive that the entire floor heard and saw it. 

"Ugh…" Gi-Gyu groaned as he stood up. Unfortunately, he received more damage from the explosion than his opponent and now had a scorched body. His water form was also gone since his control over the elemental skills was still lacking. 

"Then…" Thinking up another idea, Gi-Gyu shouted, "Elemental fire!" 

Flames erupted from Gi-Gyu; even though they weren’t as intense as the flame giant’s, they still held impressive energy. Gi-Gyu now looked like a man on fire. He flew high up in the air and crashed into the flame giant again.

***

"H…humans… in masks… players… kill… Grandmaster ordered…" After hearing the durahan’s stutter, Sung-Hoon replied, "You mean Ranker Kim Gi-Gyu ordered you to kill the masked players?"

"T…that’s… right." Durahan nodded. Sung-Hoon was running toward the giant fire when he lucked out and met the durahan. The durahan was busy killing masked players; thankfully, it recognized Sung-Hoon as an ally. 

"Haa…" Sung-Hoon sighed deeply. He remembered this durahan was one of the many Gi-Gyu summoned before. Based on what the durahan told him, Sung-Hoon figured out Gi-Gyu was battling the masked players. 

"All right, I’ll join you," Sung-Hoon announced. He had asked for Grigory, so he knew this area would soon be under control. Only the strongest ranker could pass through Grigory.

Sung-Hoon turned to look at the huge fire nearby. A scene right out of the biblical apocalypse. 

"He has been hunting humans more than the monsters lately." Sung-Hoon shook his head and raised his spear. Whatever happened, his role would remain the same.

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