Chapter 148 - Mountain of Penance (2)

“Huh? It’s him?”

“The Hoarder?”

“Why would the Hoarder…”

“Is he here for the prize money, too?”

“No. I heard the Hoarder’s a lower-floor player. He’s probably here for the trial.”

When he arrived at the foot of the mountain, he saw a crowd of about a hundred people gathered around. They all turned to look at him. Yeon-woo cocked his head to one side, wondering what was going on. Players on the twentieth floor usually wanted to pass the trial quietly. Of course, it was hard for those who attempted it the first time, but in general, the atmosphere was full of quiet determination to train.

However, the people at the base of the mountain were noisy, and none of them seemed particularly interested in climbing the mountain. Yeon-woo used the Territory senses to observe them. They were skilled players who seemed to have already passed the twentieth floor. Since they weren’t here to train, what were they doing here? Although Yeon-woo was curious, he didn’t concern himself too much since it was none of his business. He only thought about getting the Yin Sword.

As Yeon-woo approached the crowd, they split up to create a passage for him. He’d already made a name for himself during the war between the Cheonghwado and Red Dragon, and it was also well-known that he had defeated a semi-ranker. These made players wary of Yeon-woo, and they didn’t want to face him in a fight.

Yeon-woo passed them and headed towards the mountain. A message popped up in front of him.

[You have entered the first mountain.]

[The first penance, blocking of sight, is beginning.]

His sight disappeared as though he had suddenly entered a pitch-black room. He was startled by its suddenness but since he’d been expecting it, it didn’t bother him too much. ‘Although it is inconvenient that I can’t see anything.’ Yeon-woo just closed his eyes and focused on using his other senses. As his magic power spread out, his other senses woke up, and a map of the area appeared in his head.

[Sense Strengthening]

Yeon-woo was confident in his senses, especially since he could read the movements of the arrows in Section A of the Tutorial. With the senses of the dragon, the proficiency of the Sense Strengthening skill had grown to eighty percent, and it was like a passive skill for him now. His movements didn’t slow at all. ‘This is easier than I thought.’

The diary had provided a detailed explanation of the problems the Arthia members had encountered.  

When something you’ve always taken for granted like one of your senses is blocked, it’s like carrying a yoke. They all said that the discomfort was the hardest thing to overcome.

But Yeon-woo didn’t experience any of the discomfort he expected, and so he was slightly let down. It wasn’t enough to help him train, and he hoped that the other mountains would be more difficult. However, the other players didn’t seem to agree with him. 

“Ugh! Shit. This is so awful. How do they expect us to find our way?”

“There’s a lot of time, so let’s just move slowly. Be careful not to confuse each other.”

“I think there’s a path this way.”

The players moved slowly in order to avoid bumping into each other. They crept forward like elderly people crossing the road at a red light, but when they grew more used to their blindness, they began to move a little faster.  

‘If they’ve managed to reach the twentieth floor, their senses should be somewhat trained by now. How can they depend so much on sight? That doesn’t even make sense.’ Yeon-woo didn’t understand them. Only their sight had been blocked, why were they fumbling around so much? They looked so stupid shouting at each other so they’d know each other’s positions. He wondered how they would deal with that if a fight rose among them. They seemed to be trying to stay as far from each other as possible so that their senses wouldn’t overlap. It was a pathetic sight. He didn’t understand how they managed to pass so many trials without being aware of the limitations of their own senses. He used Shunpo to pass two of them quickly.

“Huh?’

“Did something just go by?”

“Wasn’t it the wind?”

He added more speed as he heard the players behind him. Most of them seemed to be just like the ones he’d seen at the starting point. In fact, there was something Yeon-woo didn’t know: the confusion he thought was pathetic was actually normal, even for the few semi-rankers who were doing the trial.  

Blocking one’s sight closed off a means to get external information, and even if their senses had improved greatly while climbing the tower, players inevitably felt uncomfortable. This was the reason many couldn’t pass the first mountain. It was also the reason why half of the players who attempted the twentieth floor would end up getting stuck.

They needed to find a way to move to the next mountain, and that method was simply to adjust to the situation as quickly as possible. Once they managed to overcome their anxiety at losing their sense of sight and began to rely on their hearing, then hearing would be blocked next in order to give them a chance to develop their other senses. By the time all the senses were blocked, they would be completely isolated. Players usually ran into trouble when they tried to find a way to get food or didn’t have enough time to adjust. When they completed all the mountains, they also received a shock when their senses were suddenly restored.

However, this usually left a deep joy in their hearts, and they could experience worlds they’d never noticed before. As their senses improved, they would handle magic power and control their skills better. The most important thing about the twentieth floor was not only to adjust but to endure. Overcoming discomfort increased one’s patience, and the joy of surpassing one’s limits was indescribable. Of course, those who failed didn’t get to enjoy this.

However, testing a limit and overcoming it, then moving onto the next limit and repeating the entire process was something that Yeon-woo did everyday. And so, the trial didn’t really affect him the way it did others. Every day was already like a penance for Yeon-woo; he just didn’t realize it. The only thing that concerned him now was how he could make the trial more difficult and less boring.

He was so disappointed that he decided to set his own limits. First, he put all the artifacts he had inside Intrenian. He changed into comfortable clothes, and only carried Carshina’s Dagger in his hand. He even changed into the mask he’d first worn when he entered the Tower. 

He removed the options to add strength to his body, and his body settled down. It still wasn’t enough, and so he restricted his Territory to a tight circle around him. As all the information disappeared, the map in his head vanished as well. He was starting to feel uneasy, as though something heavy were pressing down on him.

Then, he also locked his Magic Circuit. All the power that was circulating in his body disappeared, leaving nothing behind. All the skills he was using disappeared, and as Dragon’s Sense vanished, he turned into an ordinary human again. After discarding everything that made him strong, Yeon-woo gripped Carshina’s Dagger even more tightly.

[You have forced the Magic Circuit to stop. Warning! You may be in danger from external influences. Use your magic power.]

[You have blocked your senses.]

[You have blocked your skills.]

[You have…]

He felt like all his cells were at attention. His back straightened, and he was on guard for anything that might suddenly approach him. Yeon-woo swallowed, nervousness whirling through his body. His heart sounded like a drum. 

He had always used Territory to protect himself, and he felt extremely vulnerable without it. He was little more than a strong human now. He was so anxious about any potential attacks that he couldn’t plan out his actions, as though he’d been thrown in the middle of nowhere without anything.   

Even when he first entered the Tower, he didn’t feel this powerless. It was more like the sensation he’d felt after being dispatched to Africa after basic training. The specter of death seemed to hover around him constantly then. It was at this point that Yeon-woo thought, ‘This is a little bit better.’ He was happy because previously, he’d only focused on getting power and hadn’t trained his body. If he’d known it would be like this, he would have started training sooner.

However, he figured that he’d be able to improve even more since it was his first attempt. He had a lot of enemies, and anyone could attack him at the moment. He was likely—no, definitely—in a very dangerous situation. And so, with a great deal of satisfaction, Yeon-woo continued his journey up the mountain.

**

Climbing the mountain with blocked senses and no assistance was not an easy feat. It was possible to trip and fall off or get scratched up by good-for-nothing branches. Even though Yeon-woo only moved a step at a time, he was still moving relatively fast.  

His physique had changed because he awakened his Dragon Body. Along with his improved stamina, his nose and ears were so sensitive that he could avoid most objects, and he’d already adapted to his blocked sight.

By the time Yeon-woo reached the peak of the first mountain, he even had the composure to think about how he'd go about getting the Yin Sword as he made his way back down. He didn’t lose focus—one misstep could end his life—but he was deep in thought. ‘The Yin Sword is completely different from ordinary Mugong. If you don’t completely understand the meaning behind it, you can’t dig deeper.’

Usually, Mugong were set up in four steps: Hyung, Shik, Cho, and Ui. Hyung meant the shape. Mugong had several hundreds of detailed movements, and they all followed a Shik, and combined together, they created the Cho. And when they were all combined, the meaning behind it all, Ui, was revealed. 

It was a lot like pieces of a puzzle scattered all over that didn’t form a picture until they were put together. However, the Yin Sword was completely different, and the order was flipped around: Ui, Cho, Shik, and Hyung. You had to find the meaning first to understand the overall flow, and learn about the details as you proceeded. It was only after you understood every detail that you could learn the Yin Sword. ‘Usually, understanding is gained after training, but this is the complete opposite. I don’t know what to do. And the information is hard to understand. It’s like the Bible or a legend.’

“In the beginning, a Giant woke up and split everything apart. What rose up became light that illuminated everything below, while the things underneath joined together to support the world. This support is the foundation of the world today and has borne many fruits…”

He didn’t know what any of it meant. The Yang Saber Edora learned was probably similar. How did she understand it? Yeon-woo sighed lightly, lost in thought again. He finished the first mountain and began to enter the second. 

[You have entered the second mountain.]

[The second penance, blocking of sound, is beginning.]

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