It’s to the right.
I quickly raised my arm and blocked the shockwave that was emanating from my right. I was pushed far to the back.
Fortunately, I didn’t end up falling and rolling on the ground.
My arm was also safe because I used the Iron Wall Skill.
I moved my body immediately and dodged the trajectory of the palm blast.
I need to force the battle into close range if I am to fight that monk.
When there’s distance, the monk throws his fist around in the air freely without any hindrance while I have to dodge an endless barrage of shockwaves.
If this continued, I will eventually get hit before the monk collapses from the poison.
I could probably win if I draw the fight out, but I still have to charge into that monk and close the gap to ensure my victory.
I charged toward the monk’s chest and swung my fist.
All of my weapons were either broken or scattered on the floor somewhere.
All I have left is hand-to-hand combat.
The monk has superior body in comparison to mine.
He also has greater reach.
He is also a lot more used to this darkness than me.
I am disadvantaged in three different ways, but the monk is infected by the poison.
So, I will win if I just hold out.
The monk’s movements are too rigid.
He is not being flexible in his responses to the opponent’s moves.
He does not try to hide the intent of his moves by doing strange things either.
He just thoroughly executes the fighting art form that he knows.
So, if I recognize the monk’s stance and miniscule movements in his muscles, I can predict the angle of his attack and respond to it accordingly.
I have two advantages.
I approached the monk and used the skill.
In a moment like this, even if it is just a miniscule buff, I should raise my senses further and predict the monk’s movements.
Usually, I do not use this skill often because its duration is too short. However, it is extremely important right now.
I looked at the movements of the monk’s shoulder, waist, knees and right arm’s muscles, eventually discerning the monk’s intentions
I have experienced his move several times already.
It’s a knuckle strike aimed at my heart.
I quickly lowered my body and adjusted my left hand to block his fist from the side. I closed in the gap.
A shockwave was generated from the left side and struck the side of my head.
I think my eardrums are going to burst.
For now, I ignored the damage and attempted to execute my plan.
My right fist jolted forward to strike the left side of the monk’s stomach.
This is the stomach, the opposite side of where the poison wound is on the back.
The monk instantly changed his stance and stopped my fist.
It was not that he saw my prior moves and predicted this. He didn’t predict my plan either.
He merely saw the fist flying at him and then moved his stance to respond.
No matter how I think about it, that was an insane reaction speed.
The monk snatched my arm and threw me to the ground like a Judo practitioner.
Just before I collided with the ground, I used Blink to the same spot.
With this, although I won’t be going anywhere, I wouldn’t experience the imapac because of Blink negated momentum.
I raised my body in that state and smacked the monk’s face with my left hand.
I didn’t take a proper stance. I just swung my fist. Still, it hit his face square.
This was the first time to successfully hurt the monk with a direct attack.
The monk has weakened a lot.
The poison is running through his body, so it is obvious.
Because of the shock on his head, the monk was not able to take a proper stance. I charged at the monk and pushed his body over.
Because the monks had such sturdy bodies, they had a tendency to be slow in response when their head experienced trauma.
The monk fell on the floor. I became certain as I mounted his body.
* * *
[Welcome, Challenger. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen anyone coming this far.]
As I listened to the monk’s greeting, I checked the change in senses.
It was the tactile sensation.
Since the 20th Room, the rooms had a strange darkness that completely blocked my vision. Now, it even paralyzed my sense of touch.
It is really strange.
Is this how it feels to being completely anesthetized yet able to walk around somehow?
I raised my hand and felt around my face.
My senses were effectively nulled; my face, hand, or the arm and shoulder that supported the hand did not seem to exist.
This strange lack of sensation generated unfamiliar fear in me.
It felt like I was swimming in deep sea.
[Are you alright, Challenger?]
Having heard the monk, I got a grip of myself.
“You said it’s been awhile since seeing someone making this far, right?”
[I did, Challenger. Is there something you are curious about?]
I was so glad that I could still hear him.
I can still talk properly.
I tried making noises again.
Although I could not feel my lips, tongue, neck and vocal cords from moving, I was making proper sounds through my voice.
That fact felt mysterious somehow.
“How many… challengers… challengers were... were there before me…”
[Uuhurhurhur! You sure talk funny. First, try getting used to this place a little more.]
When I talked without thinking about the room’s mysterious effects, I pronounced the words as my body remembered. However, when I tried to talk while being conscious about the room, the pronunciations got tangled up.
I feel so embarrassed.
[Experiences like this are probably not common. Enduring the conditions of this place is great training by itself. First, I recommend that you take time and wait until you get used to this place.]
As the monk said, I quietly went to a corner of the room and sat down.
I cannot even feel the floor.
With my eyes closed, I can’t even tell if I am sitting down or lying down.
Actually, since I can’t see anything even with my eyes open, it is the same.
As I spent the time to get used to the place, I decided to organize my thoughts.
That monk is not attacking me.
He has made a strange decision, but it is a definite fact.
I have confirmed this several times as I sat in the 30th Room.
I should have plenty of time to peacefully organize my thoughts.
This place paralyzed the sense of touch, which created a good environment for me to focus my thoughts.
I slowly thought about the actions I took since I entered the 13th Floor’s Stage.
At first, my attitude was more or less the same as before I got here.
Like I always have, I had desire for experience points and growth. Also, I was curious about new Stage.
However, as I met the monks and conversed with them, my attitude changed little by little.
I laughed at their philosophy in the beginning, but that was only for a short while. I was intrigued from having conversations with them. It was interesting to learn new things by exchanging ideas with them.
I reminisced, recognizing that I was feeling very lonely at the moment. With that in consideration, I realized that my behavior was not all that weird.
It was not weird for a lonely person to become close quickly with someone who he could have conversations about a topic of mutual interest and enjoy it.
The problem was that the monks were the enemies in this stage that I had to defeat regardless. Also, the other problem was that I had inadvertently lowered my mental guard.
I guess there are about two problems.
I don’t need to worry too much about the first one.
These monks are definitely very welcoming toward the challengers, and they seem to enjoy having conversations with the challengers.
On top of this, they never attack the opponent by taking advantage of the moment when the opponent’s guard is down.
Again, this is something I confirmed from meeting many different monks.
Also, I am maintaining enough alertness to respond should the monk attack me suddenly while having a conversation.
Of course, I think it would be a serious problem if I became this lax even when facing enemies who are not monks.
I should not let that happen.
The second problem crept up to me because I never diagnosed myself accurately.
I have two weaknesses. I am currently extremely lonely, and I am opening up too easily to the ones who seem accepting.
At first, I was not aware of these weaknesses.
I cannot fix them right now, but now that I am aware of it at least, I won’t have to worry about being too close to them and panicking afterwards.
I should watch out from now on.
This should be enough.
I have not organized all of my thoughts, but I don’t feel as uneasy.
Now, I should focus on what to come.
First, let’s try adapting to this space.
* * *
[Challenger, then try going to the next room. The Master Monk will be waiting. I hope you pass the final trial.]
The monk was saying words of farewell. I looked at the monk and expressed my sincere gratitude for his match.
[Would you like to continue?]
I opened the 32nd Room’s door and entered the conjoining corridor. My vision and sense of touch came back alive.
Surprisingly, I felt burdened by the senses. How strange…
First, I checked the time.
[Round 15, Day 27, 07:30]
I had been worrying about the time, but I was not as late as I thought.
I was able to pass the 30th Room to the 32nd Room with far greater ease than I anticipated.
It was not anything special.
It was just that the monks in those rooms were not well-adapted to the conditions of their own room.
The monks focused on maintaining their art form to the perfection and executing their movement.
Because of this, not being able to sense their own body’s movement became a huge penalty.
On the other hand, I didn’t give a damn about the perfection of my movements. I only cared about charging in and attacking successfully.
I was able to move more freely than them.
Also, after some time passed, I was able to adjust to the conditions with greater ease than the monks.
Eventually, I was able to get through the rooms from 30th to the 32nd Room.
In fact, I felt that the rooms that came before them were harder.
I grabbed hold of the door handle ring of the 33rd Room.
Finally, this is the very last room.
As soon as I entered the room, I could not help but panic from my senses being paralyzed.
Of course, I was aware that my senses would be paralyzed.
However… I didn’t know all senses would be paralyzed at the same time.
Vision, touch, smell, hearing, and taste…
All senses were paralyzed.
[Welcome, Challenger. I am this temple’s master.]
Instead of having my body’s nerves removed, it felt more like I lost my body itself. I was panicking. At that moment, the Master Monk’s voice echoed inside my head.
How is he able to communicate to me?
Also, how did I hear that?
[Little by little, you will find out. There is no need to be in such rush. Try looking around.]
As the Master Monk said, I spread my mana wide and poked at the surroundings.
It was fortunate that I could at least feel things through mana.
I used the mana to check my body as well, and I realized that there were goosebumps on my arms and face.
It seemed my body was quite surprised.
I have a mountain of questions.
I have so many things I want to ask, but I am not sure if I will be able to talk properly in this place.
I am not even sure if the Master Monk will be able to understand me.
[It’s all right. I can understand you.]
[It’s a part of the Power Skills that I received from a God.]
[That’s right. I am currently going through the trial to become a God’s apostle, just like you.]
I was not surprised about the fact that the Master Monk knew I was going through the trial to become a God’s apostle.
I was also speculating that he might have something similar to Power Skills.
He gives off a sensation similar to when I use the Power Skills.
Likewise, the space emanates the same feeling.
Could it be that apostles can recognize each other?
[To be precise, you are sensing the holy power. Because of the holy power, the priests can tell amongst themselves naturally that they are servants of a God. It is also a form of identification. Were you not aware of this? You are quite in the dark when it comes to the common knowledge.]
You are able to communicate meanings to me. Is that also by a Power Skill?
[No. That’s a technique manifested through the mana. More importantly, have you calmed your agonizing thoughts?]
Agonizing thoughts? Are you aware of even my troubling thoughts?
[I was watching everything since you entered this temple.]
[Using the same method you are using to look at me.]
You are saying that you spread mana and watched me through the detection.
You are at the 33rd Room, yet you could see all the way to the very first room.
I get to witness such a ridiculous fiend.
I think I might die here.
[You have such rude thoughts.]
It’s the fault of the one who looked into my mind.
My troubling thoughts were resolved to some extent.
The root of the problem was that I was unaware of the problems in the first place.
[The first step in resolving a problem is identifying the cause.]
[Well then, I’ll tell you the details of the trial.]
[The final trial will begin.
Description: Be acknowledged by Armout, the temple’s master and the one is blessed by the God. Prove that your proclamation is not just empty words.]
Endure both of Armout’s trials and earn his recognition.