Chapter 463 - Central Bureau (5)

Second Life Ranker

His brother had discovered the Vampiric Lord’s whereabouts out of pure luck.

When the war showed signs of turning into a great war, the Bureau announced their involvement. They couldn’t leave it alone any longer.

At the time, the other Nine Kings and I visited the Cave of Yaanek, where I met the Vampiric Lord.

The Cave of Yaanek was the Bureau’s prison, where they locked up players who’d caused severe damage to the system or the stages. However, because of the looming great war, the Bureau forced Arthia and the Eight Clans to meet in the cave for a conference. The talks failed thanks to the ridiculous demands of the Eight Clans, but Jeon-woo managed to see an important figure by accident.

It was a mysterious woman who’d been imprisoned, but she didn’t look like a criminal at all.  


Since the talks weren’t making any progress, I came out for a breath of fresh air and relieve my frustration. It was then that she approached me with a blank face.

She’d mistaken me for someone else, and she quickly caught herself with a frown. “You’re not him. Are you Lana’s descendant?”

Jeong-woo had been greatly surprised to hear about his second teacher, Lana, in the cave. He was quick-witted enough to see traces of Lana on the mysterious woman and realized who she was: Lana’s mother, who’d gone missing a long time ago.

Lana once told me in passing that she was the sole blood relation of the Vampiric Lord. She was the child of the cursed entity who was feared by everyone in the Tower. She hid this information her entire life, although she said she wasn’t embarrassed by it at all.

The owner of Blue Rose and the Quartz Palace, Lana, was the only child of the Vampiric Lord. The Vampiric Lord had loved a man of another species, but she hid the existence of her husband and child because of all her enemies. However, she said that the affection she had for her family was genuine.

Jeong-woo had been extremely surprised to meet the Vampiric Lord in the cave, the legendary being who was his teacher’s mother. The Vampiric Lord had approached Jeong-woo because he had the same air as Lana, and she hoped that he was her grandson. Although she’d made the wrong assumption, she still cherished him after learning that he was Lana’s disciple. It was a wonder to Jeong-woo why the rumors portrayed her as an evil and vicious witch.

Jeong-woo managed to calm himself down thanks to her, and even though they didn’t have a chance to speak for too long, it was a meaningful encounter for both of them. Jeong-woo had learned two things. The first was that the Vampiric Lord’s most prized skill and weapon was located in the Tutorial.

‘But because there wasn’t much time left until the war, he couldn’t retrieve it. And the Bureau wouldn’t open the Tutorial for him.’

The second was that she was the longest-serving prisoner, and because she’d been in the cave for so long, no one else knew her identity, not even the Bridgeheads, the wardens who prevented prisoners from escaping.

She didn’t like attention, so she deliberately hid her presence and no one knew that she was staying in the cave. This was why Yeon-woo had planned to come to the cave to see her. Since she had been in the cave the longest, she would know it like it was the back of her hand. Yeon-woo's goal was to ask her for help to find the deepest part of the cave. ‘That guy will definitely be trapped in there.’

To enter the Tutorial, he needed an entrance ticket from the Bureau. But since the Bureau would never give it to him, so he needed to take it from someone who likely had it—fortunately, there was one such person in the cave: the rabbit, Laplace.

Yeon-woo didn’t know what kind of sin he’d committed, but he’d gone from a High Guardian to a criminal in an instant. If Laplace didn’t have an entrance ticket, he’d know how to get one. He was a pervert who only lived for entertainment and pleasure, and he had more tricks up his sleeve than all of the other Guardians and players combined.

* * *

[You have entered the hidden stage, ‘Cave of Yaanek’.]

[The effects of the stage are being applied.]

[Strength is being reset.]

[Dexterity is being reset.]

[All properties and resistance have been reset.]

[All skills and powers have been suspended.]

[The applied functions of the system have been stopped.]

The Cave of Yaanek sealed players’ abilities, and the Bureau intentionally built it to be a place where none of the Tower’s systems worked. It was why the conference between Jeong-woo and the representatives of the Eight Clans had been set there.

‘At least I succeeded in getting in. What a relief.’ The Bureau managed a handful of prisons, which were the undeveloped territories in the Tower. Although the Tower had thousands of years of history, not all of its sections were fully developed, and these hidden stages were managed by the Central Council of the Bureau. No one knew what dangers lurked in the hidden stages, so the Bureau only opened them up after confirming all the systems. The Cave of Yaanek was one of these.

However, Yeon-woo hadn’t been too sure that he’d be assigned to the Cave of Yaanek. He only knew that criminals were assigned to specific prisons according to the severity of their crimes, and he was even considering a jailbreak if he were put in the wrong place. However, it seemed that everything had gone according to plan.

‘Yvlke is a bit strange.’ The way Yvlke smiled as he transferred him to Hanabi made Yeon-woo feel uneasy. It was as if he knew everything, and Yeon-woo couldn’t help feeling anxious. But now that he had come here, he couldn’t go back.

“Hm, so you’re the Shadow King I’ve heard about. I’m the lead Bridgehead, Tarneck.” Just as Hanabi said, someone appeared at the end of the path. He had copper-brown skin, and he was at least three meters tall. Two mountain goat horns sprouted from his brows, making him look threatening.

‘The sheep, Tarneck. They said he doesn’t show himself often because he’s in charge of this place.’

Tarneck was the most mysterious out of all the secretive Guardians. Those who knew the Twelve Zodiacs knew that the rat Yvlke was the wisest; the tiger Klus and dragon Diablo were the strongest; and the sheep Tarneck was the most frightening one. Although being a sheep might give the impression of gentleness, his horns and hooves were also those of a demon.

‘And he really was a demon king.’ The mortals of the lower world weren’t aware that the Tower only maintained its peace because of a delicate balance among the heavenly world, Allforone, and the Bureau.

The High Guardians of the Central Bureau were the ones who made this possible. Each of the Zodiacs had once been brilliant divine beings who’d been the most powerful in their societies. They only ended up in their positions because their societies had been defeated by other societies, or they’d lost followers, or they’d been exiled.  

Whatever the reason, as long as Tarneck was in charge of the cave, criminals wouldn’t be able to dream of resistance or rebellion. In fact, as soon as the system was blocked, no one would even have the courage to try.

Yeon-woo could already feel how much heavier his body was, and the other prisoners probably felt the same. ‘Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s impossible.’ Unlike them, he had a way to regain his strength. He’d already pushed away the Crawling Chaos by controlling his own thoughts. If that didn’t work out, he could use the Black King’s power, although the fact that he had to awaken the Demonism made him uneasy.

‘You have been sentenced with a suspension. After you fill up your hours and finish the work given to you, you’ll be free.” Not realizing what Yeon-woo was thinking, Tarneck began to explain the basic tasks criminals had to do.

There were three meals a day and six hours for sleep. Other than those times, prisoners were required to work on the task assigned to them.

“You’ll be mining Blood-Tear Stones.” Tarneck pulled out a stone as red as fresh blood. It was such a vivid color that Yeon-woo would have believed that if he’d said it was a fine ruby.

Yeon-woo’s eyes flashed. ‘What Jeong-woo said in the diary is true. He said criminals mine in the cave without pay.’

Blood-Tear Stones were sold at astronomical prices in the Tower since they were an extremely precious mineral that most people didn’t even know about. However, among those who did, it was famous for its strength and magic power conductivity. It was named for its color, which resembled tears of blood. The purer the color, the higher the quality of the stone.

‘It’s also the main ingredient in making Adamantine.’ Considering how adamantine was rated higher than orichalcum, elementium, and mithril, if the players of the Towers knew about this, they’d probably come running. ‘Looks like it’s true that this is the only place you can get Blood-Tear Stones.’

Other than the fact that it was one of the territories the Bureau managed, nothing was known about the Cave of Yaanek. His brother hadn’t found anything in particular, and Yeon-woo wasn’t that interested in it either. The only thing he knew was that it was a separate space from the Tower, and, like the Tutorial, it was also connected to the outside.

“So, you know the value of this mineral.” Tarneck noticed the glint in Yeon-woo’s eyes and raised a corner of his mouth. It looked like a smirk. “Well, since some players choose to become prisoners because they know this is the only place in the Tower where you can find this mineral, we won’t stop you if you try to hide these. It’s all related to your accomplishments, anyway.” Tarneck returned the Blood-Tear Stone to his pocket. “However, you must complete your quota every day. Only then will your sentence be completed. Nothing good comes from being away from the system’s blessing for too long, right?”

The longer you were away from the system, the more strength you’d lose. Tarneck was saying that it would be foolish to spend too much time in the caves mining Blood-Tear Stones.

“Learn how to mine the stones yourself. Here.” The Bridgehead next to Tarneck tossed a bundle of items to Yeon-woo. Inside were clothes for inmates, a small number of snacks, a pickax necessary for mining, and other various tools.

Yeon-woo silently nodded and slung the bundle over his back, moving towards the other inmates.

Tarneck watched him go with narrowed eyes. ‘Ahem! I heard he’s like his master. Is he good at knowing his place, or does he have something else up his sleeve?’ Tarneck was uncomfortable with Yeon-woo’s obedience.

He had been in charge of the cave for a long time, so he didn’t know much about the events outside. However, he’d heard that the Shadow King routinely crushed stages and was a harbinger of disaster.

He didn’t believe all of it since the Central Bureau was full of guys who loved to bluff and exaggerate, but then the fact remained that Yeon-woo was the Martial King’s disciple. Tarneck ground his teeth even at the sound of the “M” in Martial King. The young bastard had stormed into the cave saying he needed various life experiences only to escape after a single day complaining of the stuffiness. This was after he’d already caused a great deal of havoc.

Although the system was blocked, the Martial King didn’t seem constrained at all. In fact, Tarneck even broke an arm and five ribs while fighting him.

“Ooh. You’re pretty good for a geezer.”

The Martial King’s comment still bounced in his memories. Before Tarneck had been trapped in the Tower, he saw worlds merely as sources of entertainment; they held no special importance to him. It took a lot for a small creature from one of these worlds to get on his nerves.

‘Those damned Trinity Wonder scumbags. Shaojao Jintian raised all his descendants to be riffraff.’ The Trinity Wonder had opened the Tower and set up the system, so it wasn’t surprising that the One-horned tribe, who were descended from one of the trinity, would be strong even without the system. As a result, Tarneck couldn’t help feeling uneasy now that a player associated with them had entered the cave. Furthermore, he had turned himself in without any resistance after causing all that mess. It was obvious he had other plans.

“Follow him. If he does anything suspicious, let me know immediately.”

Yes, sir. A small voice spoke in his ear and space wavered as it disappeared. Tarneck looked at the path Yeon-woo had taken and turned to the opposite direction.

* * *

‘They’re being careful.’ Yeon-woo realized that Tarneck and other beings he couldn’t see were watching him. He clucked his tongue. The surveillance was heavier than he thought. It didn’t seem like it was only because he was a troublemaker. But then, he had no previous association with Tarneck, and it didn’t explain why the other Bridgeheads were so hostile to him. ‘I did hear Master caused some trouble a while back. Is this because of that?’ Yeon-woo narrowed his eyes. ‘He really isn’t helpful in anything other than martial arts.’

Full of thoughts that would have infuriated the Martial King if he knew, Yeon-woo glanced around. There was quite a large number of criminals in the mineshaft busy hacking away with pickaxes. A few looked Yeon-woo over carefully.

‘It’ll be hard to find the Vampiric Lord among all these people.’ Since she didn’t like to show herself, it seemed like it would take some time to find her. ‘It would be nice if I had two or three guys I could order around to do errands.’

Just then, three people that looked like delinquents approached him.

“What’s this? A new rookie? You should hurry and greet your seniors. Aren’t you going to do it?”

It seemed like they were acting arrogantly to take advantage of a newbie that didn’t understand what was going on.

‘Speak of the devil. And three’s a sufficient number.’ Yeon-woo smiled brightly, as though he had just met old friends.  

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