Chapter 14 - Black Route (3)

Blood continued to gush out of his mouth, and Yeon-woo tried his best to swallow it back. His throat was burning from the toxins, and the foul stench made him gag. Despite his disgust, Yeon-woo continued to swallow blood as he chewed on the heart that was tougher than leather.

Whoosh! The energy of the white moss began wriggling inside his body. It was the pure essence formed by the energy of the moon, which would filter out the heat and dregs and blend the energies together.

Crunch. Crackle.
 Yeon-woo's body began to change little by little. The broken bones knitted together. The muscles repaired themselves. Torn skin was replaced with a new layer. But it didn’t end there. His bones grew denser, his muscles tougher, and his skin smoother. His physique was improving little by little.

[The Red O-Gong has been successfully slain. You have killed an enemy that is normally impossible for your level. Additional karma will be provided.]

[You have acquired 100 karma.]

[Your strength has increased by 7 points.]

[Your dexterity has increased by 6 points.]

[Your health has increased by 5 points.]

[Your body is experiencing slow changes]

['Physical Resistance' skill proficiency has increased significantly. 7.2%]

[The heart of Red O-Gong has been ingested. It has synergized with the white moss, revealing its hidden effects.]

[You have obtained a piece of Flame Heart and Frost Crest.]

[Current progress: 1.5%]

[Number of monsters hunted: 1]

A long time passed before Yeon-woo let go of the Red O-Gong’s corpse. He was covered in blood, but he didn't look tired anymore. "Whew." Yeon-woo leaned against the wall and calmed his breathing. His injuries were all healed, but he was still mentally fatigued. "Well, I made it somehow."

Although it wasn’t his first time to feel a strange energy transforming his body little by little, it still felt strange to him. There was something ironic about the sensation of freshness that appeared after the change. Yeon-woo glanced briefly at the Red O-Gong and spat out a piece of heart left in his mouth. 'The dungeon is full of monsters like this. What a dreadful place.' He shook his head in disbelief, but the messages on his retina made him feel better. ‘I managed to obtain the Flame Heart and Frost Crest.’

It was a hidden piece that strengthened one’s skeleton and muscles, and it only appeared after the simultaneous consumption of white moss and the heart of a fire-property beast. Although his progress was only at one point five percent, he was already starting to feel reinvigorated. 'I heard that the stronger the body becomes, the faster it’ll recover from fatigue. Well, that’s a relief.'

Yeon-woo summoned the status window to check his improved body.

[Player: Yeon-woo Cha]
[Trait: Cold-blooded]
[Strength: 60]   

[Dexterity: 65]  
[Health: 62]   
[Magic Power: 21]
[Skills: Draconic Eyes (3.1%), Sense Strengthening (17.8%), Precognition (0%), Physical Resistance (7.2%), Combat Will (3.2%)]

'I didn’t expect I’d gain more points from killing Red O-Gong than from beating the boss room.' Yeon-woo was stunned and burst out with hollow laughter. However, it was obvious that players would gain points according to the difficulty of their adversity, and the Black Route was remarkably dangerous. But one thing was certain, his body was going through a steady change. Most of the statistics were already over sixty. 'My low magic power is the only problem, but what can I do about it?' Yeon-woo frowned while looking at his magic power. It had been his highest attribute at the start, but it was now the lowest.

There was no way for him to put his magic power to use, so he had no choice but to sit on his hands. Still, he couldn’t help but worry about the widening gap between his magic power and his other attributes. 'I need to think of a way to sense mana as soon as possible.'

Thanks to Yul, he already had an understanding of mana. The only thing he had to do now was come up with a way to sense it. ‘But how?’ Unlike his younger brother, who could be considered a natural genius, Yeon-woo’s achievements all came from hard work. It had been like that since they were kids. Yeon-woo wasn’t like his younger brother, who did everything effortlessly. He often had to try over and over again to solve a problem, but he tried not to show how much effort he had taken, pretending he was doing fine. Even when he had been sent to Africa, he was so weak at the beginning that he often got his unit in trouble. However, he still managed to join the special task force.

Yeon-woo was used to pushing himself to his limits. He slammed himself against the walls of limitation again and again until it broke down. When he encountered another wall, he would continue to hit it until it broke down, too. Things weren’t much different now. Yeon-woo was aware that he was far behind the players participating in the Tutorial, and that was why he chose the hardest path to achieve outstanding growth. Since he wasn’t talented, he had to find other ways to excel. Mana seemed to require the same approach.

He knew he had to keep looking for a clue to controlling mana, but he didn’t know how. At this rate, his magic power would most likely end up being a big dud in his status window. However, he refused to let that happen. ‘I can count on my skills for now, but there will be a lot of situations where mana will come in handy if I keep climbing higher.’

Mana allowed its users to do things that were physically impossible. It was the power that made magic or unique skills possible. The Tower was full of the supernatural, so he couldn’t just give up such power. Yeon-woo had not yet completed his awakening of the Dragon Body, and mana was essential in order to fully accept this power, which originated from the ancient dragon Kalatus. The Draconic species was a noble one known as the founder of all mana and magic.

‘Let's wait and see. Worrying about it won’t solve the problem.’ For now, he had to focus on what he could do and deal with the mana problem later. And if he still couldn’t figure it out no matter how hard he tried, he would have to resort to unconventional methods. 'They say there are plenty of players who are really good at magic. If there's really no other way, then I could abduct one of them and figure out how they do it.'

Harming a person who had nothing to do with him was not ideal, but he also couldn’t just wait around without doing anything. Yeon-woo set aside his thoughts of mana and magic power and looked at his two newly acquired skills.

[Physical Resistance]
[Rank: E-]
[Proficiency: 7.2%]

[When active, resistance to physical attacks increases. In some cases, high resistance to a variety of statuses will be invoked.]

[Combat Will]
[Rank: D+]

[Proficiency: 3.2%]
[Through perseverance and an indomitable will, you burn with fighting spirit no matter what the circumstances are. While focusing on combat, Thought Acceleration allows quick decision making.]

'Rank?' Yeon-woo was surprised to see this new information, but he slowly nodded. As his abilities grew stronger, he was discovering more things. The rank reflected the value of a skill. A highly rated skill meant it was powerful and consumed less mana or mental power. It was simple to improve the rank of a skill. One way was to gain enlightenment, apply it to the usage of a skill, and gain the interface system’s recognition. The other way was to raise his proficiency.

The ranks of his two skills were not bad. ‘No, Combat Will is actually great. It’s really hard to get skills rated above D in the Tutorial.’ Yeon-woo smiled contentedly and organized the information on the two skills. 

'Physical Resistance minimizes the impact of an attack and will also relieve pain.' It was a must-have skill for Yeon-woo, who was dependent on melee combat. He had endured terrible pain many times throughout his training. He had managed to maintain consciousness thanks to his Cold-blooded trait, but being continuously exposed to pain could have a devastating effect on mental health. However, if he used this skill properly, he could avoid such situations. 'I like its high resistance to statuses too.'

Poison, burn, frostbite, panic (stun), hallucination, and curse were the biggest obstacles during raids. If he could avoid all that, it would pose a big advantage. Yeon-woo felt drawn to his physical resistance skill in many ways. It wasn't a flashy skill, but it would greatly support his combat style. However, the skill that appealed the most to Yeon-woo was Combat Will. 'Thought Acceleration is the most important one.'

In tense situations, quick decisions were a double-edged sword. They could be an important key to survival, but they might also cause self-annihilation. Decisions had to be made with caution, and the thought process was bound to be complex. However, he’d gained a skill that made both quick decisions and deep thought possible at the same time. He had even experienced it for himself when he was killing the Red O-Gong.

He had felt time slow down when the Red O-Gong's forcipules were about to reach his head, and the quick decision that resulted from Thought Acceleration had given Yeon-woo victory. It’s really a big advantage to be able to take time to make a calm decision. This skill is useful in other areas too.

The benefits of combat did not end there. Because it enabled extreme concentration, the skill also had a great effect on Sense Strengthening and on Draconic Eyes. He was able to control his senses more finely, so it would be easier to detect things that he hadn’t been able to detect before.

Using this as an opportunity, Yeon-woo closed his eyes, thinking of casting Combat Will once more. Sense Strengthening was already in action. Currently, Yeon-woo could scan up to fifteen meters ahead. But the moment he cast Combat Will, a barrage of information arrived. ^#$$#$%^$#!##*!!!

Yeon-woo almost screamed from the pressure of the information in his head. He felt an urge to vomit. “What is this?” With extreme patience, Yeon-woo managed to stop himself from throwing up, but his mind was zoning out.

The effect was more potent than what he had imagined. He could see, hear, smell, feel, and taste too many things. There was probably some kind of filter, but it had been disabled, and so much information poured into him that he couldn’t tell them apart. Lights were whirling around, there was buzzing in his ears, and different smells pricked his nostrils. He felt like his brain was on fire, and he quickly turned it off.

He doubted he would be able to filter out all the useless information. I can’t catch a break. Yeon-woo frowned and wiped the sweat flowing down his chin with his hands. However, he couldn’t just quit here. Although it was just for a fleeting moment, Yeon-woo had clearly sensed his body floating through the combination of the skills. He had felt so many things in the process, and there was no reason to stop now when he had found a way to grow. 

‘Let's do this.’ He closed his eyes once more and cast Combat Will and Sense Strengthening at the same time. The burning pain in his brain made him frown. Yeon-woo walked down the passage of the dungeon, enduring a throbbing headache by turning on Physical Resistance at the same time.

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