Chapter 12 - Black Route (1)

[You have entered the Black Route.]

[Cross the pond and reach the opposite side.]

Maybe because he hadn’t experienced any bloodshed for a while, he felt like his whole body was burning with excitement. ‘Although it was just a clash with small fry, it was useful to some degree.’ Yeon-woo was still lacking in some areas of his skills and abilities. The experience of going through life-or-death situations on the battlefield, the instincts gained through those ordeals, and the determination required—these weren’t easy to come by.

Yeon-woo had an accurate grasp of his strengths and weaknesses. ‘I can catch up on skill and ability. I don't need to be in a hurry. I just have to continue advancing the way I’ve been doing so far.’ Yeon-woo took a look around while organizing his thoughts. 'So, this is the Black Route, the toughest challenge.'

The Black Route had a very simple terrain. There was a huge pond that stretched out over the curvy ground. ‘Am I supposed to swim across the pond?’ That seemed like the goal.

[Pond of Heavyweight Water]
[The pond is made of water that the giant Mimir accidentally spilled while he transported it. No ordinary life form can live in the pond.]

Yeon-woo bent down and dipped his hand in the water. It did not feel like normal water at all and was extremely dense. Just to make sure, he threw in a small stone he found near his feet. The stone quickly crumbled and sank under the pond. Just as I suspected. Yeon-woo drew his brows together. ‘It’s not ordinary water, and it’s accurate to call it “Heavyweight Water”. Was it named after its density?’

If an average person dove in the pond, they would be crushed flat. Even if their bodies could withstand the pressure, they still wouldn’t last long. They wouldn’t even be able to rely on buoyancy. ‘If I try to swim across without knowing the pond’s depth and width, I’ll be dead soon enough. I don't even know what's inside the pond.’ The information window said that ordinary lifeforms couldn’t live in the pond, but that didn’t include unusual lifeforms. ‘Even if there aren’t creatures like that, there’s probably a trap set up underneath the surface.’ 

Yeon-woo didn't jump the gun, and instead, began carefully scanning the walls of the path leading to the pond. ‘It must be here somewhere. Draconic Eyes.’

Dozens of imperfections appeared along the walls, and Yeon-woo found a spot where the imperfections were tangled up and pressed it with his hands. Clank! The wall began rumbling as it opened inwards, stirring up a cloud of dust as it turned sideways. Then, with a loud thump, a staircase emerged, descending into the ground. ‘There we go.’

A little smile flickered on Yeon-woo’s face. It was the hidden piece buried in the Black Route—the location of Bathory's Vampiric Sword.

[You have entered the dungeon.]

[You have found the hidden piece, Room of Frost and Flame.]

[You have acquired 300 karma.]

Yeon-woo ignored the pleasant sound in his head and descended into the dungeon. The spiral staircase seemed to stretch to the bottom of an abyss. Soon, there was no light and the staircase was lost in darkness. However, Yeon-woo did not worry too much about it.

[Sense Strengthening: 17.8%]

Thanks to his high skill level, which had increased by nearly three percent after clearing the boss room in Section A, it was now possible for him to understand his surroundings through different senses without having to concentrate on his eyesight. He checked the sounds, the terrain, and his own movements. Everything felt normal, and there was no blind spot.

Just a few days ago, he would’ve had to fully concentrate on keeping his skill active, but now, he was so used to it that he could have it on without paying too much attention. His skill had turned into an automatic one, and Yeon-woo could move through the dungeon without any difficulties.

He didn’t know how far down he’d descended when a piercing wind blew, and the stairs came to an end. A new cave appeared. ‘Found it.’ The cave was full of white moss, which grew along the walls.

[White Moss]
[A type of moss that contains the essence of the moon. It can cause illness if eaten. It doesn’t taste good either.]

The explanation was simple, but Yeon-woo was already aware of the white moss’ effects.

It was only later that I discovered the difficulty of the Black Route meant that it also had many different solutions. One of the solutions is white moss.
 White moss is a substance full of moon essence. Although it’s a staple food for many creatures, it doesn’t suit human constitution. If someone eats it, they can’t absorb the energy and will even get sick. Players who somehow managed to find dungeons usually avoid white moss.

The players who chose the Black Route often turned back after finding the cave. The lack of light, the depth of the cave, and the useless things inside seemed like a waste of time, and no one wanted to linger when they had to move forward. Even Yeon-woo’s brother hadn’t known about the cave’s secret until much later. However, I learned about it from my close friend from the Yeon-dan family. White moss is a kind of material, and there is a unique way of consuming it.

'White Moss is too fragile, and it just melts when ingested. However…' Yeon-woo stopped and turned his eyes towards an approaching sound. Krikrikrik! A head stuck out of the white moss all of a sudden. It belonged to a red centipede as big as a forearm whose exoskeleton seemed quite tough.

[Red O-Gong]
[A centipede that feeds on white moss. Because it dwells in aquatic caverns, its eyes have atrophied and it relies on other senses. Sometimes, it prefers meat over moss.]

As though it believed that Yeon-woo was after his food, the centipede moved its legs quickly and crawled along the wall from the ceiling towards Yeon-woo. An ordinary person would be surprised and disgusted, but Yeon-woo stepped forward.

Insects and beasts that ate white moss had evolved the ability to radiate heat in order to absorb the moon essence. The heat originated from their hearts, which contained the fire property. He touched his dagger with his fingertips. The white moss’ property was water, and if a person consumed both a creature’s fiery heart and white moss at the same time, both properties would synthesize and turn into an elixir that strengthened bones and muscles.

Numerous elixirs existed in the Tower. Some augmented magic power, and some affected certain statistics or properties. Yeon-woo wanted the one that would help him nourish his bones and muscles. The human body was too weak, and it was easily affected by illness and injury. However, the elixir could transform a vulnerable body into one better suited to combat.  

Yeon-woo bolted forward, throwing the dagger. It pierced through the hard exoskeleton of the Red O-Gong. Blood and bodily fluids sprayed out. The centipede made a shrill cry, twisting its body and spreading its forcipules. As it crawled forward, the ground underneath it began to cave in with a rumble.

[Flame Monster has appeared.]

[Hidden Quest / Frost and Flame]
[Content: The Room of Frost and Flame is filled with unique monsters that feed on white moss. If they leave the dungeon, the ecosystem will be thrown into chaos. Hunt down as many monsters as you can.]
[Reward: Rewards will be given according to the number of monsters killed.

- 100 or more: 100 points
- 300 or more: 300 points

- 500 or more: 500 points + additional rewards according to achievement
- Over 1,000: ??]

‘It's up.’ The Room of Frost and Flame had one more prize besides Bathory's Vampiric Sword and toughening up the body: karma. The more he hunted, the stronger his body would become, and he would also collect karma and rewards. It was basically a treasure trove. ‘I have to win the reward for killing 1,000 monsters.’

Yeon-woo chose not to engage the centipede directly. Instead, he quickly turned his body sideways and avoided the attack. Crunch! The Red O-Gong ended up ramming its head into the rocks, crushing them with its forcipules.

‘The monsters here are very strong. Even with my improved body, they’re not easy to kill. It will be dangerous if I let them attack from the front.’ As soon as Yeon-woo finished sizing up the Red O-Gong, he aimed for its body. Clang! The dagger bounced off the exoskeleton, leaving only a scratch behind. ‘Yup, it’s hard.’

The Red O-Gong was aggravated, and it squirmed to catch Yeon-woo with its forcipules. Once again, Yeon-woo narrowly avoided its attack, racking his brain. A cloud of dust rose as a deep pit appeared in the place where he had been standing. ‘Normal attacks won't harm it. The exoskeleton is too sturdy. The dagger I threw pierced its skin by chance but not enough to hurt it.’

However, he could not let this battle turn into a war of attrition. He didn’t know how much health the Red O-Gong had, and he was only at the entrance of the dungeon. He had to end the battle as quickly as possible. 

Crunch! Once again, the Red O-Gong rammed its head towards Yeon-woo with a shrill cry. 

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