Chapter 15 - Three Lives Presented by the Earth Demon (5)

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Seol-Hwi had felt something different when he used his martial arts this time. His body didn’t move by his own will; instead, it mimicked the movements he had learned. Oh Ma, who Seol-Hwi thought he couldn’t win against, fell in a matter of moments.

Health: 9(↓10)/205
Internal Energy: 28(↓882)/2,250

Despite that, he was more worried about his own life than taking this man’s life. His health and internal energy were utterly exhausted. As the adrenaline subsided, it felt like his whole body was screaming at him. His internal wounds prevented him from breathing properly, and he didn’t even have the strength to stand back up.

“I don’t have time.” He had to move—if someone else arrived, he was dead for sure.

[<Vitality Medicine> Obtained Blue Par Drunken Lotus x1]
[<Vitality Medicine> Obtained Muscle Transfiguration Pill x1]
[Obtained Law of Stealth Book x1]

“Ah.” One glance was enough to know that Oh Ma’s medicine wasn’t typical. They had to be gathered from inside this arena. In addition, he had six whole bamboo plaques on him.

[Cannot be placed in the Toolbox.]

I see. The Toolbox rejected the bamboo plaques as if attempting to exclude anything that could disrupt the flow of life. Of course, he didn’t forget to put the other items in the Toolbox.

In any case, didn’t this mean he’d met the test’s passing conditions?

“Let’s change places for now.” Seol-Hwi hurriedly pulled himself out of the yellow-roofed building.


After the long night came the sun. Seol-Hwi had holed up in one of the buildings on the side of the canyon, despite using a potion to fully recover his health. He wanted to avoid being cornered for his loot.

Seol-Hwi pondered his next move. Fortunately, he had details on the items left by Oh Ma to make a more detailed plan.

[Muscle Transfiguration Pill]
Description: A vitality pill made using pure energy from the high mountains. Can be used on all body types.
Effect: Slightly increases maximum health.
[Blue Pear Drunken Lotus] Description: A lotus flower sprouted from a thousand-year-old seed. Can be used on all body types.
Effect: Slightly increases maximum internal energy.

So these kinds of medicines are all around here?

Seol-Hwi thought about using them but shortly abandoned the idea. He knew that if he didn’t use them and then died, all the items he acquired would be lost. But even if he used them, he’d still remember the martial arts he learned.

[Law of Stealth Book]
Description: A secret technique used by the Lord Guardian, who escorted the sect leader 120 years ago.
Notes: The higher the awakening, the stronger the stealth effect. Effective while moving.
Restrictions: None
[Do you want to learn the Law of Stealth?]
< Accept/Reject>

The skill was cleanly imprinted in Seol-Hwi’s mind without any need for further action on his part.

[You have learned a skill.]

He knew that the more he learned, the better off he was and that this system was constantly analyzing him.

Seol-Hwi recalled the fight with Oh Ma. The status window only activated when it found a gap. Just when he saw a golden opportunity, the status window had appeared, allowing him to kill Oh Ma.

If used well, it could be immensely helpful to me. Like so, it wouldn’t be a dream to reach the position he needed.

Seol-Hwi decided it was time to move on.

“Uh?” He could feel energy coming from the entrance. It wasn’t a natural phenomenon, which was strange. Seol-Hwi decided to approach to a safe distance.

[Do you want to save?]

It had been a while since Seol-Hwi had seen this.

[Where do you want to save?]

■ Year 95 of the Heavenly Calendar, Chapter 2: Three Choices from the Earth Demon.
□ [Empty Save Slot]
□ [Empty Save Slot]

Seol-Hwi thought deeply about how to use the save system most effectively.

[Did not save.]

In the end, Seol-Hwi left without saving. He didn’t regret it—he had no idea if he’d get another chance or if this was the last, but it felt right. If he died again, he would come here and get all the treasures.


“Hm?” The man watched Seol-Hwi lay down the bamboo plaques with wide eyes.

“Is there a problem?”

The instructor’s face shifted subtly, but he took the plaques without comment.

“Choose the next one.”

Speech, Writing, and Judgement.

I’ll have to go through all of them.

“Speech.” Seol-Hwi pointed to the one directly in front of them.

The instructor held it out and pointed to the back. “Over there.”

2nd door from the right, right next to the door he’d entered first. As Seol-Hwi moved towards it, a thought occurred to him.

Why am I not seeing the others? He thought he would see at least a few people moving around in the lobby, but there was not a single person to be found.

Well, I just need to take my tests.

Speech.

He wondered what awaited him.


The door revealed a set of stairs leading to a small basement room.

“What trash.” As soon as Seol-Hwi opened the door, he was struck by profanity. A middle-aged man with ragged attire and curly, shoulder-length hair sat cross-legged near a desk.

A strong warrior! Seol-Hwi’s face hardened. The man made his stomach churn in fear—it wasn’t just his demeanor and clothing that shocked him.

[?? + 1]

That! The number over his head.

“What are you looking at, bastard?” The man spat cuss words every time he spoke. It made Seol-Hwi feel sick, but he couldn’t say anything about it.

“I came here to take the test.”

The man didn’t answer.

“I came—”

“Say it one more time and you are dead.”

Seol-Hwi went silent. What should I do? His opponent’s energy could threaten his life, but he couldn’t just walk away. Failure to pass meant immediate disqualification, even if this man refused to talk.

What should I do…?

Seol-Hwi slowly walked around the room. There was a closet, made of what looked like iron, with three compartments. The room’s ceiling was flat. There was a bookshelf behind the desk the man sat at, but it held no books. There was a table next to the man with a porcelain bowl lying on it.

Seol-Hwi moved to the closet. He looked over just in case, but the middle-aged man didn’t stop him. He didn’t seem interested in anything. In the first compartment, he found crumpled pieces of paper and neat sheets of paper for writing. There was nothing in the second compartment; the third compartment had a dry brush and an inkstone.

Seol-Hwi went over to the table with the bowl and realized there was a piece of paper, too. He picked it up, carefully watching the man’s reaction.

[First Question]

Oh? The paper’s contents were being displayed on the Status Window.

[First Question] [You are on a secret mission to kill people. While walking deep in the mountains, you found an uninhabited house. It contains the three people you were looking for. They are preparing to leave. Their bodies could be stronger, similar to, or weaker than you. In the end, you don’t know how strong they are.]
[How do you proceed?] ▶ Attempt an ambush.
▷ Disguise yourself as one of their sect members and talk to them.
▷ Wait for the captain to arrive.
▷ <None of the above.>
9… 8…

Seol-Hwi was struggling to decide because the intent of the question was unclear. There was also <None of the above.>, unusually.

6… 5…

An ambush would be reckless. Talking to them is also dangerous… It’s better to wait for the captain to come, then.

▷ Attempt an ambush.
▷ Disguise yourself as one of their sect members and talk to them.
▶ Wait for the captain to arrive.
▷ None of the above.

It was good to be safe, as far as he was concerned. He knew that jumping in would put his life in danger.

[You have selected: Wait for the captain to arrive.]

“Fuck, I should have said that.” The man smiled frighteningly at Seol-Hwi.

N-No. This can’t be! But it was. This man had a trick up his sleeve.

By the time he’d realized, it was too late. A sword had appeared in the man’s hand and drawn a line across his neck.

Seol-Hwi breathed his last. “What a dog-like…”

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