Leveling with the Gods - Chapter 51
The School of the Sapphire Sword earned its name because its sword was as pure as a clear sky. They might not have been a part of the noble clans, but they were definitely not a small, weak school. Instead, it was a mid-sized school that had hundreds of martial arts masters.
That’s why Yang Wonil was proud to be a part of the School of the Sapphire Sword.
“Bring in ten outsiders in ten days, or you’ll be kicked out of the school.”
That was the punishment Wonil received from the head of the School of the Sapphire Sword. It was for having caused a fight within the school and crippling a fellow martial artist.
To be honest, compared to his misdeed, it was a fairly light punishment. As long as he could recruit ten outsiders, he would be forgiven.
The problem was that recruiting ten people was no easy task.
‘How am I supposed to bring in ten people in just ten days?!’
In the current martial realm, a school’s authority changed depending on how many players they had.
If a player went through a certain school, climbed up the Tower, and became a Ranker, that would naturally raise the reputation of the school and bring in more students. That’s why martial schools couldn’t help but put in a considerable amount of effort in recruiting players.
‘No matter what…’
Wonil resolved himself as he set out to recruit players.
Getting a job at a mid-sized school like the School of the Sapphire Sword was no easy task. It had taken Wonil a lot of effort to finally settle down on the 10th Floor. He couldn’t get kicked out like this.
He had never done anything else in his life other than swing swords, but he was prepared to do anything—even if that meant using force if words didn’t work.
The level of players that arrived on the 10th Floor was pretty clear-cut. There was the problem with stacking penalties, but he was a lower floor player that had only managed to climb up to the 15th Floor. He wouldn’t have to worry about the penalty once he recruited ten people.
Or that’s how things should have gone…
His eyes spun, and time seemed to move slower. Before he knew it, Wonil was sprawled out on the ground.
He didn’t know what happened. He was sure that he had swung first, but he must have passed out for a moment.
When he came to, he noticed the gaze of the crowd staring at him.
Wonil stood up in surprise, but his legs gave out on him, and he flopped back down onto the ground.
“Isn’t that Yang Wonil?”
“The embarrassment of the School of the Sapphire Sword. I heard he caused some trouble recently, so why is he here?”
“Isn’t the head of Sapphire Sword greedy for outsiders? He was probably told to recruit them as a punishment.”
“But why is he like that on the ground?”
“Well, from what I saw earlier…”
Wonil could hear the whispers of the crowd.
He was ashamed to have ended up falling over in front of all these people.
Wonil gathered strength in his legs and carefully got back up. He then started looking around for YuWon, but some amount of time must have passed because he was nowhere to be seen.
He clenched his fist.
Wonil cut through the crowd, trying his best to appear unphased. He lowered his head and got out of there as fast as he could. In his mind, there was one fact that wouldn’t leave.
‘The next time we meet…’
Killing intent filled Wonil’s eyes.
* * *
Ten days had passed.
After arriving on the 10th Floor, YuWon had continued to move on his feet without rest.
He liked the Martial Realm, but this was certainly a problem. There were no good methods of transportation here. There was no advanced magic or magical creatures that made moving around easier. So there was no choice but to run around on his own two feet.
“It’s so far.”
Ten days. That wasn’t a short period of time. And in that time, YuWon had traversed over 4,000km.* From Martial City, the starting area of the 10th Floor located in the northern region, all the way to Mt. Heaven in the western region. Due to the distance, no matter how fast YuWon was, it still took him time.
*PR/N: about 2,485.5 miles
‘So this is Mt. Heaven.’
Before his eyes was a great mountain and a clear, blue sky. It was easy to stare out into the overwhelming magnificence of nature.
YuWon got moving again.
Around the time he managed to climb halfway up the mountain, the sun had started to set.
On edge and alert, YuWon heard the rustling of the leaves.
He turned his head. There was a large group of people gathered up.
“Who are you?”
A voice filled with caution.
In order to hide their location, the voice was transferred to him through mana that echoed throughout the forest. There was only a single voice, but YuWon could sense the presence of more than just one person.
On the mountain, the sun set quickly. It had now become dark, and YuWon used [Cinder Eyes] in the darkness.
‘There’s roughly twenty of them.’
The number of people was an issue, but also each of them was fairly skilled.
As expected of Mt. Heaven. This place was riddled with monstrous people.
“Please don’t be on such high alert. I am not an enemy.”
“You don’t seem lost. You do know what kind of place this is, right?”
That was the question YuWon was waiting for.
He looked towards the owner of the voice that was observing him in the woods, and he replied, “Is this not the home of the Heavenly Demonic Cult, located on Mt. Heaven of the western region?”
The two locked eyes, and right as he responded, twenty people revealed themselves.
The twenty people surrounded YuWon.
YuWon remembered something similar happening to him. It was like when he was surrounded by a group of Jackals right after entering the Tower. However, this was a very different situation.
‘Jackals can’t even begin to be compared to them.’
The Heavenly Demonic Cult was a group that had long been facing off against the Martial Artists’ Alliance. Currently they were unable to leave Mt. Heaven, but if you looked at the strength of each school individually, the Heavenly Demonic Cult could have been considered the greatest martial arts school.
And these people here were the members of that same Heavenly Demonic Cult.
“So you did your research before coming.”
A martial artist from the Heavenly Demonic Cult looked YuWon up and down. It was probably to take into consideration things like his clothes, weapons, and the energy he radiated.
The atmosphere and energy that YuWon radiated wasn’t all that bad.
The martial artist nodded his head at YuWon’s visit.
“So, do you desire to join our cult?”
It was obvious the reason why a player would seek out the Heavenly Demonic Cult. Unless one was absolutely crazy, no one would ever come here to pick a fight.
It was a case where everyone who came here came to make the Cult their home. And the Heavenly Demonic Cult was very picky about the players that wanted to join.
“What floor player are you? If you want to join the Cult, tell us your floor, name, and show us your skills…”
“That’s not it.”
YuWon shook his head. He did have business with the Heavenly Demonic Cult, but he had no intention of becoming a permanent member. The thought of giving up climbing the Tower to settle down on the 10th Floor like the other martial artists here had never even crossed his mind.
YuWon could have said that clearly, but he knew that this wasn’t something to say to the plain martial artist in front of him.
There was a ‘much bigger gaze’ that had been looking at him since earlier. YuWon looked towards that gaze and spoke.
“I, player Kim YuWon, wish to take the Heavenly Demonic Cult’s test.”
As soon as he said that…
[The Heavenly Demonic Cult’s test will now start.]
The test began.
* * *
* * *
The day quickly became dark. Due to how tall the mountain was, the sun was up for a shorter period of time.
YuWon climbed up the mountain with the martial artists of the Demonic Cult.
The mountain was tranquil. The sounds of people stepping on leaves could be heard clearly.
The head of this group, Gwang HaMuk, decided to break the silence.
“It’s been a while since a player wanted to take the Cult’s test.”
Gwang HaMuk was a player who had climbed beyond the 40th Floor. He was skilled enough to be in charge of his own unit.
“Seeing as how you came all the way here, you already know, right? The reason why players avoid the Heavenly Demonic Cult’s test.”
“Isn’t it because the passing rate is low?”
HaMuk shook his head while smiling faintly.
“It’s not because it’s low, but because it’s impossible.”
“There has not been a single player to ever pass the Heavenly Demonic Cult’s test. That’s how the unspoken rule has come to be—to never take the Heavenly Demonic Cult’s test.”
HaMuk looked over at YuWon.
“But maybe you’ll be different.”
There was not a single person in the Martial Realm that didn’t know of the Heavenly Demonic Cult. There were two reasons for this. The first was that the Cult possessed enough power to be considered the greatest martial arts school. The second was because no player had ever managed to pass the Cult’s test.
‘Which is why their forces are slowly growing weaker.’
A martial arts school incapable of recruiting new players. That’s why the only way the Demonic Cult could increase their forces was to accept players that descended from higher floors.
That was the reason why Mt. Heaven was so quiet.
Long ago, the Heavenly Demonic Cult had so many men that it occupied the entirety of this enormous mountain.
“It’s this way.”
While following behind HaMuk, a sinister mana started to envelope YuWon’s body.
[You have entered a barrier.]
[You try to resist the effects of the barrier.]
[You have failed to resist the effects.]
[If you go off the predetermined path, you will fall under the status effect : Hallucination.]
A barrier. Compared to the Jaegal Clan, known to have the most powerful barriers, the Cult’s barrier wasn’t as strong, but it was still impressive.
The path in front of him now looked completely different. There were dozens of different paths, and one had to find the true path among them. If one accidentally stepped on the wrong path, they would fall under the barrier’s hallucination, as the message warned.
“If you take even a single wrong step, you’ll be completely lost. Except for the Heavenly Demon, no one will be able find you, so be careful and follow…”
HaMuk turned his head to warn YuWon only to stop talking. His eyes widened.
YuWon was gone.
HaMuk could have sworn that he was there until a moment ago, but now… he was gone.
“W-Where did he…?”
HaMuk’s head scanned back and forth. The entire area was the Heavenly Demonic Cult’s barrier. And if he disappeared inside here…
… YuWon might become unable to ever find his way out.
* * *
YuWon walked without hesitation.
As he walked down a path, another crossroad appeared. Among the dozens of paths, YuWon picked a single one and continued on.
His red eyes let him see through the illusion created by the barrier.
The barrier was honestly not that amazing. They might be the Heavenly Demonic Cult, but they were still a part of the 10th Floor’s world. [Cinder Eyes] wasn’t some half-baked skill that couldn’t even see through this place’s barrier.
‘How far does this go?’
The path stretched out pretty far.
He’d had to choose a path over ten times now, but every time, YuWon managed to pick the true path and not a fake one created by the barrier.
30 minutes had passed since he’d started walking through the barrier. It was about time for him to see the end…
… The end of the chosen path.
Once again YuWon came to a crossroad, which brought him to a stop. This crossroad was different from the other ones.
‘There are two paths.’
Both paths were real and not fake.
YuWon wondered which one to pick.
In the end, he decided to trust his instincts. Regardless of his choice, he wouldn’t fall under the hallucination of the barrier. So he picked the left path.
However, his choice wasn’t based entirely on instinct. There was also the ‘wind.’
With every step, the scenery around him changed. The thick dense forest grew further away, and a small room revealed itself.
The room was quiet and simple with a single candle lighting the room. And in the middle of the room was someone sitting down with his back facing YuWon.
“So you’ve come.”
A low, thick voice.
[You have passed the Heavenly Demon’s 1st test.]
… The message he was waiting for popped up.