The monk collapsed to the floor. He was not making even the slightest movements. I wiped off the blood from my cheek.
Now that I’m at the 15th room, the monk is definitely super strong.
[You have cleared the 13th Floor of the Hell Difficulty.]
[Would you like to continue?]
The message asked if I wanted to continue with the trial inside the floor.
This was my first time to see such a question.
The message appeared after I achieved the minimum condition for clearing the floor, which was 15 wins.
Of course I should continue.
I have no idea when would be the end of the 13th Floor Stage, but let’s try going as far as I can.
If possible, I should try going to the very end.
There weren’t any new messages to my response.
There was no response as if they were telling me to do as I wish.
Now, if I want to stop challenging the floor and go get the reward, what am I supposed to do?
Would another message with the choice show up only after I clear a different room?
I brought out a potion from the inventory and applied it on my shoulder and arm where I had wounds. I opened the community while at it.
There was a message that arrived while I was in middle of the battle.
[Lee Ho-jae, 13th Floor: Oh, what is it? Did something happen?]
[Kim Min-hyuk, 30th Floor: No, it isn’t because something happened. There was more information that came in about the competition.]
[Kim Min-hyuk, 30th Floor: The information this time is that the competition will be held several times. We have not found out about how many times it will be held to conclude the competition.]
It will be held many times…
Perhaps it is not that the event is something that has to be held regularly. It could be that it is a time consuming event, so it was divided into several events.
[Kim Min-hyuk, 30th Floor: About what you found out last time, they were, foreigner, second, right?]
[Lee Ho-jae, 13th Floor: Right.]
[Kim Min-hyuk, 30th Floor: During the second competition, I think we might meet foreigners.]
[Lee Ho-jae, 13th Floor: So there really was Tutorials on other countries.]
It was a question that came up in the community quite some time ago.
Why is everyone in the Tutorial Korean?
Of all countries on Earth, why just Korea?
Could it be that Tutorials are happening in other countries as well?
There were questions like that.
Because they could not confirm the answers, those questions were also the kind that people buried in back of their minds.
[Lee Ho-jae, 13th Floor: I got it. I’ll continue to find more information.]
I already cleared the 13th Floor. So, no matter how late I end up being, I should be able to get new information before the round ends.
[Lee Ho-jae, 13th Floor: Looks like you will be busy for a while, even more so than now.]
[Kim Min-hyuk, 30th Floor: I probably will. I’m saying this because of that. When the competition happens, can you command the guys at the normal difficulty?]
What? You want me to fill the role of the kindergarten teacher?
That’s a little…
No, I hate it.
I clearly told Kim Min-hyuk that I hated the idea.
[Lee Ho-jae, 13th Floor: No. I will not do it.]
[Kim Min-hyuk, 30th Floor: Hey, we are super busy. It is really serious. I am so busy that it is to the point where I wonder if I would die from overworking if I didn’t drink potion.]
[Lee Ho-Jae, 13th Floor: No. Setting aside the fact that it is such a bother for me, the people will be afraid of me. Have you thought about that?]
[Kim Min-hyuk, 30th Floor: If you are that concerned, why don’t you ask Park Jung-ah for help?]
[Lee Ho-jae, 13th Floor: Even Park Jung-ah will be afraid?]
[Kim Min-hyuk, 30th Floor: Ugh, I don’t know. You handle it.]
With that as last words, he didn’t send any more messages.
Frustration was creeping up, but I squashed it.
Kim Min-hyuk probably was busy like crazy.
His head was probably about to explode from preparing for the competition, and now there were too many new information coming in.
Now that we have confirmed the existence of Tutorials in other countries, this fact was going to be a big variable.
First, we have to acknowledge that the Tutorial’s architects, managers and gods are recognizing the boundaries of the nations on Earth.
Depending on this, the reason behind Tutorial’s existence and setting the goals for the players will be affected as well.
Kim Min-hyuk will try to organize all variables and try to write down the plans and operation methods for the Order of Vigilance.
He is the kind of man who won’t be able to let things be unless he did.
Also, we need to be prepared for the time when we meet the challengers from the foreign countries.
Not all of them will try to follow the rules made by the Order.
Also, the Order will insist on the rules to everyone without exceptions.
As always, the Order of Vigilance will not make compromises.
Um… No. Now that I think about this, in situations like this, the Order’s method of handling it had always been making threats with me as the vanguard.
Damn it. It looks like things will get annoying for me again.
If things get tangled up, just demonstrating our power was not going to be the end of it. It could even lead to collisions with the challengers from other countries.
I think there might be a reason why Kim Min-hyuk is asking me to take command of the people at the Normal difficulty.
All of the bosses of the Order, including Park Jung-ah, belonged to the Easy Difficulty.
Even the guard members, who were made up of rankers from Normal and Hard Difficulties, will all follow around Park Jung-ah.
As for the Hard Difficulty, Big Bro Jong-shik will take care of it on his own.
As for the Hell Difficulty… What kind of lunatic would pick fights with challengers of the Hell Difficulty?
On the other hand, in the Normal Difficulty, many of the rankers were busy with Order’s work.
Kim Min-hyuk is saying that there will be gaps in their strength, so I should make up for that.
Even if that’s not what this is about, there is nothing for me to lose from doing as Kim Min-hyuk asked.
I don’t have a reason to think hard about this and get headache.
Ever since the first day of the great harmony ended and the Order of Vigilance was established, Kim Min-hyuk always worked hard to prepare for the uncertain future.
He was not satisfied with doing just that. He was showing the level of obsession that could be stated to be coming from paranoia.
If I was to explain that I was obsessed with my own growth and Park Jun-ah was obsessed with fighting and punishing criminals, I could say that Kim Min-hyuk was obsessed with making various measures prepared against all kinds of situations.
For now, I should take the command of the people at the Normal Difficulty as Kim Min-hyuk asked.
As for the detailed plan…
Let’s think about that later.
I don’t really need to think about this right now.
I got up from where I was sitting and headed to the 16th room.
While walking through the corridor, I thought about the weaknesses of the monks that I discovered so far.
There weaknesses were nothing extraordinary.
It was like simple negative side effects from having such tough bodies.
Their ability to make decisions and react quickly to rapidly changing situations declined severely in certain instances.
When they are shocked on their heads or when their visions are shaken, for a moment, they show gaps in defenses.
It seemed they were not used to being stunned like that because they had such sturdy heads.
They were also not very good at improvising and reacting in such situations.
They had one other weakness. They were rather lacking in experiences.
Even at a first glance, it seemed they had plenty of experiences in fighting against other monks, but it looked like they had no experience in fighting other beings.
Even just now, the monk complacently exposed his neck when we were close to each other.
I bit off his neck, obviously.
I wrapped my teeth with mana. I was able to bring out predator-like power with my teeth.
Of course, my mana had poison mixed in.
Like that, the duel was decided.
Of course, as I progressed to higher rooms, the monks’ levels improved, and their weaknesses also got supplemented.
However, overall, the monks still showed such tendencies still.
As long as I keep these things in mind, I should be able to achieve victories from the rooms beyond.
* * *
With great intensity, enough to collapse the ground, the monk stepped and rapidly approached me. I swung my spear toward the monk.
The monk lightly angled his head and dodged the spear.
Damn it. He is charging at me in such speed, yet he dodged my spear by looking? What nonsense.
When I swung it with all of my might…
Let alone dodging it, ordinary eyes should not even be able to follow its trajectory. This monk leisurely looked at it and dodged it.
I spun the spear once and stepped back.
The monk charged in to pursue me. I swung up the spear toward the monk’s chin.
Again, the monk turned his head just enough to dodge the tip of the spear.
This is insane, seriously.
By the monk’s kick, the spear left my hand and flew up toward the ceiling.
As soon as I lost the grip of the spear, I brought out the knife from the inventory and swung it toward the monk.
The monk’s fist moved in bizarre pattern. It struck my wrist and stopped the knife. He then leisurely stepped back to gain distance.
Damn it. The monk was dusting off his hands as if he had a lot to spare. Watching him made me feel infuriated.
My chin feels numb.
Just now, at the moment I was bringing out the knife from the inventory, I was struck by a clean shot.
If the monk was not empty handed, if he was holding something as simple as a piece of a metal chopstick, I would have been critically wounded.
Actually, if the monk wanted to wound me critically, then regardless of having weapons or even Budda’s hair, I might have gone for a sightseeing on the Jordan river.
Ever since the 15th room, the minimum requirement for clearing the Stage, the difficulty was rising like a crazy bitch.
All plans I thought of as I walked on the corridor beyond the 15th room, which relied on monks’ weaknesses, were disposed of.
Since the 15th room, the monk’s level changed completely.
Their physical abilities and skills were noticeably stronger.
They used quick speed to minimize unnecessary movements to the extreme and dealt precise strike.
I’m giving up the spear.
I brought out the shield from the inventory.
It’s been a while to use the shield and knife combination.
Still, I am far more used to this than the spear.
In the past, I choose the gladius and shield as my starting equipment, and I did so to prepare myself for situations exactly like this.
Against opponents who can ignore the threat of the blade and fight casually…
Against opponents who can control the distance at will using their superior speed…
When I first entered the Tutorial, I had ordinary, or perhaps less than ordinary physical abilities, so I needed to be prepared for such.
Regardless, against an opponent like this monk, I have to harden my defense with the shield and bring him within the range of the knife. I need to finish the battle in a single strike by piercing him in the critical point.
Against an opponent who is faster than me, this is the only method that works.
[Challenger… Will those be enough?]
The heavy and dignified voice of the monk echoed through the stone room.
Fuck. Why is his voice so cool for no reason?
That pisses me off.
These are not enough.
There is such a great difference in speed. Just changing the weapon couldn’t possibly make up for the difference so easily.
[Challenger… You probably should demonstrate your full power. You must not ruin this duel with your foolish pride.]
“Why are you being so considerate? I don’t get it. Are you saying that while being aware of the fact that the 18th room’s monk is unconscious on the floor after saying the same thing you were saying?”
If I was him, I would not have shown useless consideration toward the opponent who was having his weakness exposed. I would have persistently bit on to the weakness and end the duel.
[Challenger… He had done nothing wrong. Also, I am merely making the same choice as him.]
“… Because being victorious is not the important part?”
[That’s right. Instead of the desire for victory, what’s more important is getting closer to the completion of our art through this duel, even if it is only a little bit further.]
I don’t understand at all.
I’ve heard this many times already.
Every monk I have met so far said something similar.
However, I don’t understand.
I spat out the blood collecting inside my mouth.
I really don’t want to acknowledge this fact, but it is about time I did.
This is as far as I can go with my abilities.
With my abilities, I cannot handle that monk’s speed.
I looked at the number written on the wooden door once again.
This place is the limit of my abilities.
I should remember this.
[Your combat abilities are increased by a small margin in proportion to the strength of the opponent.]
[Your combat abilities are increased by a small margin in proportion to your exhaustion and injuries sustained.]
I activated the Perseverance Skill.
Actually, this skill was originally a passive skill that activated automatically when criteria were met.
However, Idy claimed that the caster should be able to control the skill no matter how great the Perseverance skill is.
While I was at the 12th Floor’s Stage, by repeating duels against Idy, I was able to succeed in determining a method to activate and deactivate the Perseverance Skill.
Having realized how to do it, I was able to control it with ease ever since.
The control method was a matter of will regarding the skill’s activation.
I also activated both the Battle Focus and Soul Steal.
“Now, let’s try this again. As you want, I’ll demonstrate my best.”
[I was waiting for this. Come.]
On the monk’s face, he didn’t just have moments to spare. He was even reflecting emotion of joy.
I used the Blink and moved to right in front of the monk’s nose. I tried to stab his neck with the knife.
The monk responded still despite the fact that it was an approach using the Blink.
The monk dodged the knife’s edge and came in for the counter. I focused on the monk’s fist.
With the Battle Focus’ effect, I was inside slowed down world.
I can clearly see the monk’s fist flying toward my face.
However, judging from the speed of the fist, I won’t be able to dodge it perfectly.
In that case, I need to think of the next move.
I confirmed the trajectory of the fist and moved my head.
I let go of the shield on my left hand and positioned my body forward.
My cheek was instantly fortified by the effect from the Iron Wall Skill. The monk’s fist scratched past my cheek.
Just like how one could deflect an enemy’s weapon by positioning the shield at an angle instead of causing a direct impact, I succeeded in deflecting the monk’s fist by having it graze my face.
Although the fist and my face merely grazed past each other, sound of metallic screeching could be heard. Also, sparks were generated from the scratched surface.
The monk’s fist went past my face and continued on far beyond the back of my face.
The monk tried to quickly retrieve his fist and back out, but it was too late.
Unlike the monk, who was trying to respond too late, I already predicted the situation will lead to this ever since I saw his fist coming at me earlier.
My left hand, which had let go of the shield, was grabbing on to the monk’s clothes.
My right hand, which was holding the knife, was moving toward the monk’s heart.