Chapter 147 - Mountain of Penance (1)

“You damned…!”

“Last words?”

“The curse of fate will…!”

Yeon-woo brought his foot down on the last priest’s head as though his words weren’t even worth hearing. He looked around his surroundings, which had been completely cleared by the Guai. There were around 300 players lying in strange positions on the ground, their arms and legs were twisted in unnatural angles or their bodies impaled on a sharp shadow. The only thing they had in common was the look of fear on their faces before they died at the hands of the undead.

They were holy knights who had been sent by the three goddesses, but their efforts to fight in the name of the temples had been futile. Not a single player had managed to even swing a sword at Yeon-woo. The appearance of the Guai had confused them until they ruined their own attack. Yeon-woo didn’t even need to call up Dragon’s Power.

Swish. The Guai all disappeared into the ground, holding the corpses. The bloodstains disappeared, as though there hadn’t been a fight in the first place.

Those guys were so boring. Is this all you got? Shanon complained as he put his sword on his back. Although he didn’t have any features, it seemed like he was pouting. Hanryeong put down his bloody sword and nodded in agreement. He hadn’t even taken out nine swords. He’d only used two. The players he’d dealt with were an insult to his pride.

“There will be more guys in the future. Don’t worry.”

Well, if you say so. Next time, you should offend better guys. Shanon disappeared back into the Black Bracelet with Hanryeong. 

***

There were several more attacks after that. It was a one-sided massacre each time, and Yeon-woo was kept busy collecting souls and strengthening his Guai. The more powerful the forces were, the better it was for him. Eventually, the Three Norns had no choice but to stop sending people. They had to admit to themselves that the gap between them and Yeon-woo was too wide. If the massacre continued, their spiritual bodies would be torn up from the root, and they didn’t know if they’d even regain their holy power.

Also, hiring so many mercenaries and assassins left them in financial straits. They were also running out of people to hire since many turned them down as word of Yeon-woo’s accomplishments spread. They didn’t give up completely, but they decided to recover first before chasing after Yeon-woo again.

Yeon-woo guessed that it would take them a while to do that. The temple of Skuld had been humiliated, Urd’s Apostle had died, and the already-small number of holy knights they had was decimated. The temple of Verdandi was unscathed, but it was still connected to the other two temples, and their reputations were at rock bottom. Even the believers who had endured were now turning away.

A god’s power came from their dignity, and without their dignity, the three temples were facing a very cold winter. They didn’t have the ability or freedom to move against Yeon-woo for a while.

‘What should I do about this holy power?’ Yeon-woo looked at the holy power that he’d forced from Hepburn’s soul, wondering what the best way to deal with it was. It was priceless since it was Urd’s power. The first thing he thought of were the souls bound to the Black Bracelet. However, they had opposite properties, and it would be like poison to them. Holy power wouldn’t help with the evil element.  

He had to think of an efficient way to use it, and eventually, he made a decision. ‘Vigrid.’ It was a magic sword that had been immersed in the curses of countless heroes. Couldn’t he cleanse it with the holy power and bring it closer to its original state? The curses had been washed off by Aegis and the Holy Fire, but the source of the curses was still lingering around. Yeon-woo held Vigrid in his right hand and poured holy power in it little by little so that he wouldn’t waste a drop.

[Purification is commencing. Vigrid is rapidly absorbing holy power. 35%, 36%, 37%...61%, 62%...]

[The power of the holy sword is being revealed.]

The rust and blood on Vigrid began to fade, and it began to glow with a white light. The runes on the blade appeared as it began to lengthen. It would still take some time to wake all of Vigrid’s abilities even after it was purified. Yeon-woo was curious to see what Vigrid, the sword so many heroes desired, would look like after everything was finished. 

***

Yeon-woo began to climb the floors again. He already had the power of a ranker, and he could use the information in the diary and his Dragon’s Knowledge, and so he swept through the seventeenth to the nineteenth floors easily. He still spent a lot of time looking around for hidden pieces and gathered karma to set records on each floor, and he still refused to register his name in the Hall of Fame. However, even with all of that, he managed to reach the twentieth floor in a day.

[This is the 20th floor, gate of the Five Penance Mountains.]

‘This is it.’ Yeon-woo looked at the five mountains from the starting zone. They stood in a line, so tall that they pierced through the clouds. Each mountain was taller than the preceding one, and the peak of the third mountain and onwards was covered in snow. The view was beautiful, and just looking at the forests around the mountains was relaxing.

However, many players disliked this place. Although it was true that most of the floors weren’t particularly popular with players, one could at least gain many items if one looked closely. Unfortunately, this wasn’t one of those places. It was an examination zone that tested what the players had achieved so far.

Every ten floors, the Tower tested the players. The tenth floor tested those who managed to get through the previous nine floors, and the twentieth floor tested the achievements of the eleventh to the nineteenth floor. 

The Five Penance Mountains were also called the Five Elements Mountains by the people who lived on the twentieth floor. The tests that the infamous mountains produced were so difficult that some players returned to the lower floors to start all over again. However, unlike other players, Yeon-woo was excited to begin the trial of the twentieth floor. 

[The trial of the 20th floor is beginning.]

[Trial: People who want to become a god must endure punishments and know how to overcome limits. The five mountains will help with your penance. Your eyes will be covered to get rid of temptation, and your ears will be closed so you can have quiet solitude. In a world where scent and taste are gone, you will be free from obsession, and the sensory deprivation will give you a chance to look back. Every time you cross a mountain, you will be given a penance. Overcome all penances and become a perfect self.]

The five mountains symbolized the five senses, and that sense would disappear once a player began climbing that mountain. The first was sight; the second was sound; the third was scent; the fourth was taste; and the fifth was touch. People couldn’t help reacting to external stimuli, but when that was gone, only the mind remained. Players had to climb the last mountain only with their minds, and it required a great deal of faith in oneself.  

A lot of players couldn’t get used to the sensory deprivation and retired. Even if they passed the trails, they grew sick of it. But even though the trial was difficult, some saw opportunity in it. Those who wanted to train themselves and become rankers sought the trial of the twentieth floor because as one rose in position, the greater the pressure of the five senses grew.

It was the perfect place for someone who wanted to get stronger, like Yeon-woo. He also thought it would help him finish the homework that the Martial King had assigned to him. Yeon-woo opened Intrenian and pulled out a book that the Martial King had given him before he left. Yeon-woo read it whenever he had time, but he found it difficult to understand, even with his Dragon’s Knowledge.

<Yin Sword>

It was the additional reward that Yeon-woo was supposed to receive after finishing the Martial God’s test, but the Martial King had deferred it, saying that it was too difficult for him. He would only give it to Yeon-woo after acknowledging his growth.

As Yeon-woo’s development of the Eight Extreme Fists grew deeper, he thought it would help to learn a new Mugong. It shouldn’t be a problem with his outstanding memory and comprehension of what he’d read in the Skill Archives. However, he couldn’t memorize the book because he simply didn’t understand it despite his general knowledge of Mugong and his growth after awakening his Dragon Body. It was so difficult that he couldn’t even understand enough to turn the page.  

Yeon-woo recalled the conversation he had with the Martial King before he left. 

"The Yin Sword is a mission that our tribe has always desired to acheive, along with the Yang Saber.”

"A mission?"

"Well, it’s not that well-known to outsiders. Let me try to explain. Hm, OK, do you know our tribe’s origin?"

"I only know that your tribe followed Shaohao Jintian since he opened the Tower."

"That’s close enough. We’re a founding tribe that is the heir to our god’s legacy, and we live to improve it. That includes things like Mugong and Jinbup, but there’s something that we haven’t managed to do for thousands of years. Damned thing.”

"Are you saying…?”

"Yes. The Yin Sword and the Yang Saber. The combination of the two Mugong takes us closer to the Mugong that our ancestor god used: Bright Tai Chi Pangu Sword. So, we’ve wanted to fulfill that wish for a long time.” 

Yeon-woo still remembered the madness in the Martial King’s eyes when he spoke about the Bright Tai Chi Pangu Sword. A genius like the Martial King couldn’t even touch the Yin Sword and Yang Saber.

He explained that Edora could inherit the Yang Saber since she had her Insight, but no one could inherit the Yin Sword so far. He hoped that his disciple would do it. Yeon-woo realized that the Martial King had been looking for a successor of the Yin Sword, and if he couldn’t find one in the tribe, he would find one outside. His previous disciples had probably been potential candidates—the Sword God and the other person who rivaled him.

‘And both failed.’ Yeon-woo might fail, too, since it was a Mugong that even the One-horned tribe hadn’t been able to learn for thousands of years. Yeon-woo couldn’t guarantee anything, but receiving the book meant that he had the qualification—and he wanted the Yin Sword. Not only that, he wanted the Yang Saber and the Bright Tai Chi Pangu Sword, too. It was the Mugong used by one of the three entities who had opened the Tower, Trinity Wonder’s Shaohao Jintian.

He wanted it. ‘I’ll do my best. Whatever I need to do.’ This floor was the perfect place for him to train. After organizing his thoughts, Yeon-woo began to move towards the first mountain.

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