Swish! Swish! Fifteen steel arrows flew at Yeon-woo, more than the usual number. This was because Yeon-woo had deliberately activated more traps by running in zigzags. Each arrow came from a different angle and at a different speed. Previously, it would have been impossible for Yeon-woo to dodge them by relying only on his senses.
Clang! Yeon-woo swung his dagger to strike an arrow in front of him and spun around, stretching out his empty hand to catch another arrow passing by his chest. As he completed his rotation, he swung the arrow to deflect another one heading towards his back. Then, he raised his left foot and kicked another arrow that was hurtling towards his ankle. Clang!
Although his movements needed many words to be described, they took place in a split second. It was something beyond what humans were capable of, but Yeon-woo showed no signs of exhaustion. He’d been driving himself into increasingly dangerous situations out of sheer impatience. He had come to a point where he didn't have to consciously search for the arrows and immediately located them with his developed senses. Also, his heightened reflexes made it easy to dodge them. He didn’t feel pain anymore when he pulled the steel arrows out from his body.
Yeon-woo stopped running when he reached the arrival point. He could hear noises from the boss room ahead. The same thing had been going on for days. However, Yeon-woo didn’t pay much attention to the boss room and checked the time.
“Whoo! It only took me four hours to get through!” It was an astonishing improvement considering that it had taken him more than thirty-four hours to pass Section A on his first try. With the reset tickets, Yeon-woo had advanced tremendously by going through Section A several times.
Each time he reset Section A, the position, timing, and lethality of the traps changed. Therefore, during his first few attempts, Yeon-woo had to be on high alert to locate where the steel arrows were coming from. He also put restrictions on himself to reduce the time spent traveling back and forth.
He had been in near-death situations several times. There was a moment where he miscounted the number of steel arrows, and one had almost hit his head. There was another moment where an arrow skewered his right hand, nearly tearing it off. However, each time, Yeon-woo somehow managed to escape death and achieve his goal.
Six days had passed.
[Player: Yeon-woo Cha]
[Magic Power: 21]
[Skills: Draconic Eyes (2.1%), Sense Strengthening (15.1%), Precognition (0%)]
“They’ve gone up by a lot.” Yeon-woo had a gratified smile on his face as he looked at his attribute points. They had increased by an average of nearly forty points. Although his magic power was still the same, his other attributes had grown by leaps and bounds. "It's a shame that the increase in attribute points has slowed down since my eighth attempt."
His training method with the colored arrows had helped his stats increase so much that Yeon-woo almost couldn’t get used to the changes in his body. However, after a certain point, his attribute points stopped improving so quickly. It seemed that there was a limit to the number of points that could be gained from the hidden pieces. Also, since the arrows were no longer a threat to Yeon-woo, his improvement had begun to slow. 'Still, I should be able to hold my own against most players. However, it’s still going to be hard to catch up with the frontrunners.'
He was already getting accustomed to his skills. Now, he could control not only his hearing and haptic senses but also his ability to see, smell, and taste. He had also learned a unique way to improve his ability quickly by amplifying all of his senses at the same time whenever he had the chance. He had even acquired synesthesia, which was something he had only heard about before. Same with the “Draconic Eyes.” The Draconic Eyes was a skill that allowed a player to borrow the ancient dragon Kalatus’ eyes of truth within a limited range.
When Yeon-woo used the Draconic Eyes for the first time, he was shocked by what he’d seen. The world had faded to black and white, and instead of three-dimensional objects, he’d only seen the black outlines of objects against a white background. If something had a separate structure inside, it appeared on a smaller scale. It was as if he were looking at a rough sketch on white canvas. “No. It’s more like an x-ray image or maybe like clairvoyance.”
The eyes erased outer appearances and projected only the form and the interior, and it also seemed to reflect the truth of an object or the lines that formed their composition. His brother had referred to them as “imperfections”.
When I first got the Draconic Eyes, I was very surprised by this new world. But it was only later that I realized how important it was to see imperfections.
Yeon-woo had experimented by cutting a small rock at the arrival point that had been designed for players to sit on. Normally, a dagger wouldn’t be able to penetrate a rock, but to his surprise, he managed to cut the rock easily as though he were slicing through tofu.
He knocked on the rock to see if it was soft, but it was as hard as the walls of Section A. The surface of the cut halves was smooth, as if it had been sanded down. Since then, Yeon-woo had steadily used the Draconic Eyes to train himself to identify vulnerabilities that were easy to attack.
It was a level of growth that anyone would be proud of, all thanks to the fact that he had pushed himself so much that he didn’t even sleep. However, Yeon-woo was still unsatisfied. 'If I had started with the frontrunners, I would have reached Section E by now. If I stay behind any longer, I will never catch up to them.' It was natural that the gap would continue to widen as they advanced to the rest of the sections.
Yeon-woo could not delay any longer, and he turned his eyes towards the boss room. It was time for a full-out race.
* * *
Before leaving, Yeon-woo took a brief moment to meditate and put his thoughts in order. It was something he always did before stepping into a battlefield, and it was a habit he’d picked up from an Indian soldier while he was still in Africa. He could get rid of distracting thoughts and be completely focused on combat, just as he was doing now.
Yeon-woo mentally organized everything that he’d been practicing, which were mostly related to the changes in his body from the improvement of his statistics and adapting his skills and senses to his body. Yeon-woo wanted to analyze the movement of his muscles and bones according to different actions.
Previously, he had set his senses to only feel his surroundings. He did not know when or from where an arrow would come, so he had to pay close attention to the outside in order to survive. However, now that he had some breathing room, he decided to focus part of his senses on his own body.
He tried to observe as many physical changes as he could—the motion of his muscles when externally stimulated, the reaction of his nervous system, the sounds produced by his bones, the changes in his body according to the moves he made, and the differences generated from using a skill.
He tried memorizing every minute detail of his body just in case he found himself in a disastrous situation and had to escape. He had to make sure that he could control every movement down to a cellular level, and to do this, he had to start with his body.
Crack. At some point, Yeon-woo vaguely sensed something flowing through his body. It was easy to figure out what it was. “Magic power.”
It was mana. Although it was very weak, there was mana in his body, slowly affecting him as it circulated. Whenever he activated a skill, mana moved along with it. When he used Sense Strengthening, mana gathered around the specific part of the body he was focusing on. And when he used the Draconic Eyes, mana seeped into his eyes.
Yeon-woo tried to trace the mana’s path in order to imitate its movements as closely as possible, but it disappeared, as though it were toying with him. He had fully focused his senses inside his body and chased after the mana, but it disappeared without a trace.
Yeon-woo felt a little heavy, but he decided not to push himself since he’d already discovered that mana was the foundation of skills and was already present in his body in a dormant state. He only needed to take things step by step, and one day, he would be able to control mana.
* * *
Yeon-woo opened his eyes after finishing his meditation. He felt refreshed, as if he had enjoyed a good night’s sleep. His body felt lighter than ever. After finishing his preparations, he opened the iron gate, his backpack slung over one shoulder.
[You have entered the boss room of Section A.]
[There are 88 scarecrows and several traps that will attempt to stop you from advancing. Cut through the scarecrows and beat the boss room.]
As soon as the message popped up, a steel arrow shot out as though it had been waiting for this very moment. Swish! Yeon-woo instinctively turned his dagger sideways and struck the steel arrow.
Clang! The steel arrow bounced upwards and flew back in the direction it had come from and got itself stuck in the trap. Broken pieces of the trap fell from the ceiling. This was a move that he had practiced during his ninth journey through Section A. He liked this method because he could train both his accuracy and technique at the same time.
Yeon-woo observed the scarecrows that filled the passage. They looked like ordinary scarecrows, like the ones that dotted the countryside, but they were moving little by little. Their limbs were unrestrained, so they could move around on their own and hinder the players trying to pass through. 'They seem pretty solid, too.'
A team had been struggling to beat the boss room for a week. Each time Yeon-woo reached the end of Section A, he saw them being blocked by the scarecrows, unable to progress. The scarecrows did not attack the players and only blocked their path. However, that simple action was enough to keep them from moving forward.
Each attempt the players made to break through the scarecrows ended in failure. They didn’t fall over when attacked, and they didn’t move an inch when pushed. The only traces of the attacks on the scarecrows were scratches and soot. This meant that trying to damage them with physical strength or skills was useless.
There were also a lot of traps all over the place. They were different from the ones in Section A; in addition to steel arrows, there were poisoned arrows, fire arrows, booby traps, spear traps, and more. If the players grew too preoccupied with avoiding the scarecrows, it was possible they would succumb to the traps.
But Yeon-woo was confident. “I have to get to Section B immediately.” With his dagger clenched in his right hand, he sprang forward.
Swish! Swish! Five steel arrows rained down on him. Yeon-woo did not even glance at the arrows and lightly swung the dagger to the side. Clang! Clang!
“I have to move faster. Must not slow down.” Yeon-woo put more power into his legs.
Krak! Rumble! Then the ground sank in front of Yeon-woo, but he was familiar with this kind of trap, and he had already scanned through it with his strengthened sense.
Boom! Yeon-woo leaped high into the air over the sunken ground. A bottomless abyss appeared below him, gaping open. “If I fall in, I’ll die right away.” Yeon-woo gracefully somersaulted over the gap as if he were performing acrobatics. He tried to land past the hole, but two arrows suddenly flew out on each side. It was hard to avoid them, but Yeon-woo twisted his body like a spinning top and easily repelled the arrows shooting towards him.
Clang! Clang! The arrows fell down powerlessly into the hole.
Thud! Yeon-woo managed to land safely on the other side of the hole. He suddenly felt heat coming from the ceiling. A fire roared down a hidden wick, its red tongues fluttering out to devour Yeon-woo. However, he had already gained some resistance to burning. He covered his mouth with a handkerchief and ran through the fire. He shook off the cinders on his clothes and continued running.
He slanted the dagger to its side and swung it, creating a gust of wind that hollowed a tunnel through the flames and he ran through it without wasting any time.
Swish! Swish! Along with the steel arrows, other arrows appeared. There were flaming arrows, poisonous arrows, ones with hooked tips, and more. Yeon-woo avoided them, but when he couldn’t, he blocked and parried them. Despite their numbers, the arrows could not even touch Yeon-woo’s hair. It was as if he had eyes all over the place.
Despite the traps, Yeon-woo did not slow down at all. On the contrary, his speed gradually increased as his health attribute rose. The other traps also made no difference. Booby traps, fire traps, spear traps, rolling rocks—none could stop him.
It was then that the scarecrows started taking action.