My palms were all scratched and covered with scars. I slipped once in the middle of the climb bow, and two of my nails were completely busted.
It hurt so much, but I desperately mustered up the will to escape this hell.
I was running like a mad man, digging through the bushes. There wasn’t much time for me. It seemed like I spent almost 4 hours just coming down here. If I had trained my body just a little bit, I could have come down in a better way.
And that man wanted me to go out and come back within 4 hours? Crazy old bastard.
It would take more than 8 hours to get back unhurt and with a meal.
-Phew. This is really frustrating, especially since you cannot use qi.
‘Shit. Do you want me to leave you?’
This was making me hate my childhood. I still wondered what my thoughts were at the time. Still, there was no time to complain. I needed to run and get away from that old man.
A shadow fell in the blink of an eye, and my vision darkens. Since I was wading through the bushes, I thought the thick leaves might have cast a shadow from the light.
But then the Small Short Sword sighed.
‘What is it?’
-You are done.
Then I realized.
Something huge and bulky had jumped ahead of me. Seeing the large figure, I froze. The one who stood in front of me was that furry, savage being.
“You took my warning lightly.”
“I-It isn’t that.”
“Are you ready to die?”
I lost my place as stars seemingly appeared right in front of my eyes. When I woke up again, it was due to the pain in my face making it feel as if it would explode.
My head felt heavy and hot as I opened my eyes in fear, terrified of what I would see.
Seeing the peaks upside-down was terrifying to me. As I lifted my head, I saw a steep cliff.
I cursed out loud. In the meantime, all the blood rushing to my face made me feel like dying. I also came to realize my hands were bound behind the back. What was even more absurd is that my ankles were also bound.
Which means that I was hanging upside down with my limbs tied up.
“Uhhhh! Save me!”
How many people can stay sane in such a situation? Even a hardened criminal would lose his mind.
I shouted out like an animal to ask people to save me and that man to spare me. Curses too escaped my mouth, everything echoing down the mountain.
My body swayed with the occasional wind. This was true terror.
I was screaming like a beast asking for help, barely registering just how my throat is beginning to hurt. Only a hoarse voice was coming out of my throat now. Blood was still rushing to my head, and all I could see were the cliffs as I hung upside down. The tension might just cause my heart to explode and kill me.
It was strange. As fear began to rise, my will to live also began to soar. I forcefully lifted my body to stop the pain of all the blood rushing to my head and face.
My stomach was cramping, but I didn’t care. When I tried to bend my body up, I could feel the blood start to drain away from my head.
Fortunately, the rope tied to my ankle is tightly done, so it doesn’t seem like I would fall off.
“… damn it.”
The problem was that my hands were tied too. I had to remove it, but I wasn’t sure how. I continued to hold my upper body in a lifted position, but now it felt like my back was going to rip itself apart.
I closed my eyes and straightened my back. I didn’t want to see the cliff again. Blood flowed to my face once again as my back and stomach relaxed.
This half up and half down angle wasn’t good either. Finally, I bent my back again, and my face became comfortable, but then the pain shifted to my back and stomach.
Thanks to the pain, I straightened my back again. After some time, I ended up having to repeat that action constantly. I am forced to do it, so either my head will hurt, or my back will scream in pain. This cycle of pain repeated itself for almost an hour.
Along the way, I enjoyed the rare experience of hanging up on a cliff and vomiting.
This was so excruciating that I might just die like this. But then.
Tak! Tak! Tak!
I looked up as I heard the sound approaching.
Hae Ack-chun was hanging by the cliff and looked at me. I was in so much pain that I ended up begging that beast.
“S-Spare me! Please let me go!”
My voice was hoarse from the screaming. I sounded pathetic.
But he just laughed before quickly putting me on his side, wrapped the rope to his other hand, and climbed up. It didn’t take long to reach the cave that he lived in.
He untied my ropes and threw me down. It hurts, but I didn’t have any strength left to scream.
It felt like my stomach and back were already torn apart, and my neck was faring no better.
I only uttered a curse inside my head. This damned old man was really the devil. I even thought about beating him up!
In the middle of this, I saw the two brothers trembling and clinging to the wall on one side of the cave.
I thought this man would nicely teach them, but that didn’t seem to be the case. The older one, Song Jwa-baek, was clenching his fists which were beginning to scar over, and the younger one was upside-down on his head.
Song Jwa-baek looked at me with tears in his eyes and was trying to say something.
‘That demon-like bastard.’
I nodded as I looked at the face of the man who could understand my pain. At this moment, we all felt a sense of unity.
Then I spotted my Small Short Sword on the floor. I dragged myself to it like a bug to grab it.
-Ahhhhh! I thought you were dead.
As soon as I grabbed it, it greeted me with its squeaky voice. I really thought I was going to die too.
In the meantime, there was the signal that my stomach was suffering. It had been a whole day, and I haven’t even had a proper meal yet. The twins also seemed to be on the same boat.
However, that man was just sitting on the leopard skin-covered stone chair and was eating something. A piece of dried jerky.
A thousand fires shone inside me. If he had such a thing, why did he want me to go and hunt?
At Hae Ack-chun’s words, the twins nodded. He then glanced at me and said.
“He was punished for running away without hunting, so you two don’t get food either.”
Pushing the responsibility onto me. Hopefully, this won’t happen all the time.
Song Jwa-baek was already angry with me and turned to glare at me. But he was a simple-minded man and wasn’t really the problem.
“I am hungry… I want to eat… that.”
His younger brother, Song Woo-hyun, who was still upside-down, wanted to eat the jerky the old man was having. Song Jwa-baek looked at his salivating brother in shock and covered his crotch.
“Idiot. Hold on!”
Then Hae Ack-chun pulled something out of the sleeve. I, who saw what it was, became shocked.
-What is it?
‘He will kill us.’
What was in Haek Ack-chun’s hand was a small flute. The problem wasn’t the flute. The problem was if the flute was blown, it would hurt.
“Stupid boys. Do you know what this is? Hehe.”
The twins had no way of knowing. They looked at the old man with puzzled faces as he blew into the flute lightly.
Both twins just fell to the ground while grabbing their chests.
Their faces became red, and their body began to convulse. At that moment, I, too, fell to the ground and started screaming like them.
“People like you cannot be handled with words. Kulkul.”
The mad man smiled at our pain. There was a reason why people called him the Ghastly Monster. After some time, the twins returned to their senses and exhaled out a breath.
I, too, did the same actions as them. Then Small Short Sword said to me.
-You… aren’t hurt?
Because Short Sword was stuck to me, it noticed right away. I purposely curled up in the opposite direction and hid my face as I screamed.
I could barely stop myself from smiling. I was not hurt. Obviously, hearing the sound of the flute made my chest hurt, but I was fine otherwise.
‘What happened to the blood parasite?’
I thought it was strange when I couldn’t feel the pain in my chest. Yet when he blew into the flute, I really felt nothing, and I had no idea what happened to the blood parasite within me.
‘What is it?’
The short sword was excited at my question and said,
-What do you mean, what is it? The blood parasite obviously failed.
I hoped so too. I haven’t had the chance to confirm it yet, unfortunately. But now, I felt that the blood parasite was no longer an issue.
“Get out tomorrow morning and get something to eat. I will give you 4 hours.”
Even if someone was in good condition, it would take nearly 4 hours to get down the cliff. And he wants me to do what?
“If you try to escape again or go past the time given, you should start getting prepared to hang off the cliff again. Kulkukl”
Hearing his words, my sword said.
-He is nuts.
The second day.
I had to wake up early in the morning and head down. I felt like my body would break down as I rushed down the cliff. It feels strange.
Without even thinking, I was trying to go down the cliff.
-Will you give up?
The short sword suggested trying to escape one more time, but I couldn’t risk it now.
I tried to escape once, and this man hung me upside down. I needed to at least assure him this time. I had to do my best to not get hung again.
But I had just 4 hours to get this done. I wandered around the nearby forest to hunt. Thanks to my experience of doing chores as a low-rank warrior, I succeeded in making a trap that caught a pheasant.
It then took me another 4 hours to climb back up.
After returning to the cave, I was immediately left hanging for another 4 hours. Like the day before, I screamed at the top of my voice the entire time.
On the third day, I rushed down the cliff desperately to get the task done. But then I slipped and almost fell down the cliff. Even with my nails ripped out and my palms scraped, I couldn’t finish hunting in the allotted time.
This day too was a failure, and as soon as I got back up the mountain, I was beaten up by the old man.
Gu Sang-woong, who had come to check up on us, clicked his tongue as he saw me hanging.
It was difficult to handle the cliff in 4 hours. It was almost impossible for me, who didn’t learn martial arts or have any internal qi.
I climbed the cliff little by little and slowly got used to it, but my climbing time didn’t shorten by much. As expected, I was hung on the cliff again.
But I’m not too scared since I was getting used to it. However, it was still painful to have blood rush down to my head, so I had to do crunches again and again. I could feel the muscles in my stomach getting tighter.
I was getting used to going up and down the cliff. As I climbed the cliff every day, I had no choice but to feel the muscles in my body start to harden. My palms, too, became hard as they were covered by calluses.
I made a bow to shorten my hunting time. I didn’t know why I didn’t think of this on the first day.
In less than 30 minutes, I managed to successfully catch 2 pheasants. As there is more to eat, perhaps the old man was in a good mood since even though I returned late, I was left hanging for only two hours.
I was delighted with this. However, the younger one of the twins had come over and gotten punched by the old man. He had a bloody bruise on his head.
Finally, the day came. After obediently following what he asked me to do, the surveillance on me became looser.
I convinced myself that the man wasn’t too late before trying to escape again. This time I even had an escape route planned. After coming down the cliff, I ran straight into the woods, but before I could even get out, the old man knocked me out with a hit to the head.
For the first time since my death and regression, I was left hanging on the cliff for over half a day.
One month had passed.
I got used to moving up the cliff. Only now did I notice a good path to go up and down the mountain. Maybe that is why I could shorten the time of the trip. Still, considering I had to hunt, I would go over time and hang again.
However, unlike before, it felt like training, and I would even do sit-ups. Now there were even washboard abs visible on my stomach.
I could feel my stamina increasing significantly in just one month when compared to my time as a third-rate warrior.
And another month passed.
-So boring. The slave duty begins again?
‘Don’t say it.’
The short sword responded with sarcasm. Who would want to do this work? Now it’s trying to pin me against the man.
‘I will survive from here!’
But this hellish suffering was bringing benefits to me. The muscles in my upper body were developed. My thighs were thick enough to resemble horse thighs, and my stomach was as hard as a stone.
Even during my third-rate warrior training period, I never felt like this.
-What about him?
Song Woo-hyun seemed strange. A big wound on his head looked more like a bump. It was the first time I saw hair stand up like that. Is that baldness or partial hair loss?
‘I don’t know. He’s not a guy who cares about hair.’
All he was probably thinking about was eating together with his brother. Other than that, he’s not interested in other things.
I’m not sure how long I will have to continue my routine of traversing the cliff and hunting, but my life was more important than his.
‘Damn old man!’
I stared at Hae Ack-chun, who was on the stone chair. He never sleeps lying down.
‘Maybe he is afraid of being attacked.’
Even I wanted to stab him with a dagger. But then the old man opened his eyes.
-He woke up!
I was shocked as I hurriedly tried to avoid making eye contact with him. He then got up from the stone chair and said.
“It has been about a month or two.”
Saying something strange, he lifted me up, put me between his hands, and left the cave suddenly. This was the first time I have gone up to the peak.
The peaks were covered by fog, and it felt like a place where gods wander. The old man then looked at my body.
“Now you are ready.”
I had no idea what he was trying to say. It was scary. Is he making another plan to torment me? I was anxious until he asked me an unexpected question.
“What if there is a way to deal with internal qi without a dantian?”
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