“How far could I go?”
[Probably up to about the 25th Room.]
I was overestimating a higher number.
I got pretty used to the space already. I also have learned a lot in the process too.
[The height you will face from the 26th Room and beyond will be different.]
“Are you talking about the environmental challenges or the power of the monks?”
[The latter. If you do overcome the 26th Room, then you probably will be able to get to the 29th Room.]
“What’s the problem with the 30th Room now?”
What a filthily hellish difficulty.
I’m getting frustrated all of sudden.
This Hell Difficulty does not know the meaning of enough.
I complained by myself and got up, followed by the monk.
[Are you going to go now?]
“I should. I have a long way to go.”
[First, I must say that the canned soup that you made was very delicious.]
I was slightly concerned that it would not suit his tastes.
[Also, I want to say that I enjoyed talking to you. I will look forward to the day when we will meet again.]
We won’t ever meet again.
I already beat the 15th Room and cleared the Stage.
Even if this round ends, I’ll be moved to the 14th Floor’s waiting room because the clear condition was still met.
I won’t have the chance to challenge the 13th Floor again.
Also, even if I could challenge the stage again and meet this monk again, he wouldn’t remember me.
When the round resets, it will be as if he never met me.
“Well then, I’ll get going.”
For some reason, I had a sudden loathing to say goodbye and leave.
Did we get close already?
It was worrying.
For some reason, I was anxious. So, I hastily got out of the room and closed the door without even looking back.
[Will you continue?]
The monk said the 25th Room or the 30th Room would be my limit. However, I do not agree with his words.
You never know until you try.
It’s not like I got this far because I was overflowing with confidence for victory.
* * *
[Challenger, you were still not used to the reach of the spear. Abandoning the spear’s advantage and throwing your body to force damage on both sides is not quite a good method. Also, you have the habit of putting your left foot first when you are making that choice.]
I was about to leave the 24th Room when the monk advised me with his back turned.
That was valuable advice.
They were so important that I felt awkward about just leaving without a word.
For a moment, I contemplated a suitable reply. However, I dismissed the thought.
[Uuhurhurhurhur. There’s no need.]
[Would you like to continue?]
There’s no need to ask anymore.
Regardless of my chances, I intend to go all the way to the 33rd Room.
As I walked toward the 25th Room through the corridor, I organized my thoughts.
Numerous problems still bothered me.
They were important problems. Adding onto their importance, depending on how I resolve them, many things could change.
However, this is not the time for me to hold such troubling thoughts in my head.
All monks I have met so far said that the 25th Room will be tough.
I need to focus on fighting the monk at the 25th Room.
I eradicated the distracting thoughts and focused my senses to prepare myself.
When I became certain that my senses focused and ready, I opened the 25th Room’s wooden door and entered.
I entered the room, and the monk greeted me. I looked at the monk thoroughly.
Appearance-wise, he didn’t look very different from the monks earlier.
“Shall we start now?”
[Now? Um. I guess that would be fine. Challenger, it seems you are pretty used to this space.]
“It’s been the same since the 20th Room, so it is about time I got used to it.”
[Uuhurhur. Usually, getting used to it so fast is not possible. Also, there were dense ones who needed to get adapt to the room’s environment again after walking through the corridor which does not have the darkness.]
“How dense does one have to be to do that? Do people like that need to adapt again each time after entering the room?”
[That’s right. Actually, most challengers are like that.]
He is probably not talking about the Tutorial Hell Difficulty’s 13th Stage. He is most likely talking about the temple at the west of the continent that worships the God of Duel.
I suddenly feel curious about this place’s story.
What kind of history and memory do these people have? Why do the challengers come? What do they gain?
I was about to open my mouth to satiate my curiosity. However, I changed my mind.
I closed my mouth again and asked myself.
Am I really that curious about them?
What happened to the promise I made to myself to I will focus on the duel against the monk earlier?
Could it be that I am not actually curious about their story, but…
I just want to have a conversation with that monk?
[Um? Are you all right? Challenger, you don’t look so good.]
It felt like my sanity was crashing down.
I had been thinking that my behaviors lately were strange. I have been acting like that because I was too lonely.
So, I was feeling joy from the act of having a conversation with someone.
Out the blue, I was facing my fragility. It concerned me.
I had been aware that I was not that healthy mentally.
I was also well aware that I was suffering from loneliness.
I knew I like Kiri Kiri, Kim Min-huk, Park Jong-shik and others who are willing to have a conversation with me and smile because of that reason.
However, I didn’t think I would take interest in the enemies and find joy from feeling connections because of my loneliness.
I didn’t think I would show myself so thoughtlessly unguarded toward the enemies.
I wonder how many times I would have died so far if the monks were not so friendly toward me.
As I thought about this, I remembered the incidents of near death. I should have died in those moments.
I felt like I just wanted to scream.
[Challenger, are you all right? Take a seat and calm your breathing.]
Instead of doing as the monk said, I brought out my backsword.
I won’t be able to subdue this chaos in my mind when I have that monk in front of me, I thought.
“… No. I’ll finish this duel and then either talk or organize my thoughts.”
[Uuhurhur. It looks like you are confident about winning. Well then, go ahead.]
[God of Adventure is cheering for you.]
[God of Slowness is watching you.]
The reactions from the God of Adventure and God of Slowness came as always.
I knew they would show up.
There was a time when I thought the two gods wanted the same things from me.
However, now, I am aware that they each want the opposite things from me.
The choice I’ll make in the future… I wonder what kind of choices I would make and which god I would please with my choices.
At the moment, I am not sure.
For now, I should focus on the task at hand. I’ll think about that later.
* * *
This is insane.
I think I finally understand why the monks I met in the past all said the 25th Room will be hard, repeating the same line over and over.
The monk was calm and had his hands flat together. He then moved the hand and punched the empty air with his knuckles.
The shockwave of mana erupted out.
I quickly threw my body to the side to dodge the shockwave.
What is this, a palm blast?
Was that a palm blast?
The shockwave collided with the wall with a loud noise.
Pieces of rubbles from the wall poured down.
I even thought that perhaps the wall might collapse and cause the entire room to cave in.
It was incredibly powerful. Getting hit by it directly once probably will send me to my grave.
I think I might die instantly if I get hit the wrong way.
The monk was discharging shockwaves by the bucketload.
Using the Blink to dodge the shockwave is a waste.
I’ll just get exposed to another shot afterwards.
I should use the Blink for attacks and dodge the shockwaves with by moving.
I moved after I saw that the monk was taking a stance again to launch a shockwave.
Let’s make this a battle of speed.
I threw my body to the side and dodged the incoming palm blast.
Like that, I hastened my speed and ran around the monk in a circle.
With vision being useless, the monk and I had to rely on the detection through the mana in this space.
Let’s see if the monk’s detection skill can follow my speed.
As my speed increased, the Wind Spirit’s Blessing Skill’s acceleration effect was applied.
Now, it became harder for me to run around in circle inside this small room because of my increased velocity.
Again, the palm blast was launched.
It seemed that he shot it while predicting my trajectory. However, the shockwave only passed by my back.
I squatted then jumped up.
I landed on the wall perpendicularly, my feet on the wall.
With the momentum I had with my speed earlier, I can stay on the wall in this stance for a moment.
I focused on my leg and back.
I need to squeeze out all of my mana and muscular strength.
Like a spring expanding after compression, I kicked the wall and launched myself toward the monk like an arrow.
The monk was not able to follow my speed completely. However, he did respond by raising his arms to guard against the direction I was flying towards him.
The backsword I swung and the monk’s arm collided.
It was a collision of mana, generating a shockwave.
My body was being pushed back by the shockwave.
As soon as I landed, I raised the backsword again and aimed it at the monk.
I knew that the monks did not attack in a situation like this.
However, that did not mean I could just take it easy and remain defenseless either.
I have to always stay focused and stay sharp.
I had survived that way, and I could survive this only if I did.
Again, I ran around the monk in circle and threw my body towards a wall.
I kicked the wall and charged at the monk just like the last time.
The monk tried to stop my attack using the same stance.
Perhaps because this was the second time I tried this, it seemed the monk’s stance looked a little more stable.
Because I had to raise mana as a replacement for my vision, I cannot maintain the Battle Focus for long.
I have to make this attack count.
I was inside a world that was so slow that it felt like the time actually stopped. I was flying toward the monk very gradually, slowly at a snail's pace.
Meanwhile, I could check my stance.
I was flying though the air like an arrow.
It was obvious that my sword swing stance was ruined.
Maintaining the Battle Focus, I made a miniscule adjustment to my stance before I collided with the monk.
At the moment the sword and the monk’s arm collided, I focused on the moment when the shockwave was generated.
It was about grasping a split-second moment.
Using the Battle Focus, I forcibly raised my focus to the extreme. With this, it is possible to grasp that single moment.
With the sword and the monk’s arm as the center, I saw that the shockwave was being generated. I immediately used the skill.
I used it twice in a row and got to the monk’s back.
Blink Skill was not just a quick movement skill.
One special attribute of this skill was that all momentum was extinguished once the movement was complete.
Therefore, the shock from the collision became nullified with the Blink’s special attribute, and I was currently holding the position behind the monk. I can attack the monk’s back without any hindrance.
On the other hand, the monk is getting the shock from the collision up front.
I thrust the sword into the monk as deeply as possible, and the strike tore the monk’s back skin.
I was intending to pierce through the monk if possible. However, all it did was tear his skin.
Because of the shock from the front and his attempt to quickly turn his body to dodge the stabbing attack from the back, the monk lost balance.
He was in middle of the collision, yet he turned his body after detecting my movement to the back and the attack.
Just what kind of a fiend is he?
The monk stumped on the floor hard, generated loud noise, and flew away before stopping only after running into a wall.
Surprisingly, the monk got up as if that was nothing.
He was bleeding on his back from the tears in his skin, but other than that, he was the same as he was when I first met him when entered the 25th Room.
It seemed the monk was examining his body. He was standing still for a moment. The monk said,
[Is it poison?]
“That’s right. It’s poison. If you leave it be, you could die in five minutes. Ah, I guess it may not be fatal if it is you. Still, you won’t be able to continue fighting regardless.”
[Uuhurhurhur. It is interesting. This is my first time experiencing a duel like this. I will lose if I don’t defeat you within the time limit. However, if I rush around without making any progress, the poison will spread faster.]
[Uuhurhurhur. This is quite enjoyable.]
“All other monks said the same.”
The monk was laughing about it once again. Watching the monk, I reminisced.
The monk who I met at the 20th Room said the monk at the 25th Room will be a great challenge. He also said that the 30th Room will be the next challenge if I got past the 25th Room.
If I can hold out just for five minutes, it looks like I won’t have problems until the 29th Room at least.
[Well then! Since we don’t have time, let’s get started right away! Looks like I should be the one to attack now, uuhurhurhur!]
While laughing with deafeningly loud voice that filled the room, the monk was charging at me. Reactively, I corrected my stance.