After I obtained Alamoor’s Straight Sword on the 29th level, I headed toward the 33rd level: 「Realm of Sloth」. When I touched the seal on my earlobe, space would distort and a ‘gate’ would appear, and through that I could go to whichever level I wished to between the 1~50 levels. There was something I absolutely needed to obtain on the 33rd level.
There had been alot of research regarding this place, Rakshasa Mountain. An endless amount of information was documented and stashed away in secret libraries, and I perfectly recollected the things I had seen here because this is where I had met Rakshasa and obtained ‘Heartless Soul Stealer Blade’ as well. There also existed a variety of unusual dlevels on Rakshasa Mountain. For example, like this very 33rd level.
There were countless stairs here. The ground below it was like a gaping bottomless chasm, and it would spell death the moment a single misstep is made. While there were no monsters here, resting wasn’t an option. These stairs were made to simply disappear if one stayed still for more than 3 seconds. I could almost feel the intention of forbidding even a moment of sloth. However…the ‘Paladin’s Cape’ was here somewhere.
[Constitution is ‘45’.]
[Regeneration abilities are nulled.]
[115,799 stairs must be climbed to reach the next level.]
This was the problem; the condition. It was designed to drive a person to their very limits by measuring their constitution. What this meant was that at about 45 constitution, climbing 115,799 stairs without rest would lead to utter exhaustion, or even near death. However, only by overcoming that limit would the ‘reward’ be given. I had heard from somewhere that the person had who obtained the Paladin’s Cape had obtained it upon climbing stairs equivalent to three times that person’s limit.
‘Equipments that comprised a single set under the name Paladin. The name itself held the most weight among what could be obtained on Rakshasa Mountain.’
The five pieces of equipment with the name Paladin were the sole set equipment that could be found on Rakshasa Mountain. Shocking extra powers could be exhibited with every addition of a set piece, allowing their user to take the battlefield by storm. Although there was no precedent of all five being gathered, there was a famous case of a person who had only gathered three of them, who used the ability ‘Brilliance’ and instantly thwarted the ‘Invasion of Lord Ormos’. If only I could, at this moment, obtain all the equipment with the name of Paladin…
‘I would be one step closer to them.’
Demon lords, and the monsters within the purple gates. I had no thoughts of simply leaving them be, to watch from the sidelines as Earth is invaded. I will strike before they come. And for that I needed to endeavor to grow stronger. The Paladin equipments were only the beginning.
“Are you all with me?”
Etaqua nodded his head, and the gnoll warriors also expressed their will to challenge. Chuckling, I began to climb the stairs.
Limit. What did a limit mean? I always did muse over it. There was a time when, in the past, I had also thought to myself ‘I have no limits’; that I could do anything, become anything. But after crashing into the wall called reality, I despaired and slowly began to weary. I had realized that people, and the world, weren’t subject to my will. Many times had I smiled bitterly at the vanity of being lauded as the strongest. As time passed in that manner, bit by bit I came to realize my limit. It should be attributed to age.
As people age, they come to possess eyes capable of calm self-analysis. They behind themselves foolhardy adventures and rash judgements, and made decisions only from within the ‘range of safety’ they had previously experienced as they sought stability. This couldn’t be said to be a bad thing, however, one would slowly come to forget the word ‘challenge’; this, at least, was true. The more one aged, the more the responsibilities that needed be taken after all.
I was the same. Pressed down by the weight of my responsibilities, I had sought stability only. My failure would spell humanity’s failure. To shoulder that risk alone was much too heavy for me. Although, now that I’ve come back, I whip myself into action under the notion that nothing can stop me, but would it truly be so? My mentality differed in no way from the Hansung Oh of the past. It’s not as if my mental age had reverted together with my return. Perhaps when I truly ran into a ‘wall’, I would once again fall into resignation and worry about my ‘limits’.
[115,799 stairs has been climbed. Will you head to the next level?]
I felt short of breath, as if my brain was being deprived of oxygen. The gnoll warriors had already gone inside the Jewel of Space. Although I was climbing together with Etaqua, he appeared to be in suffering no less than mine; perhaps he had reached his limit also. My head felt completely blank. But…I felt as if I could go a little more. Ignoring the message, I continued to climb the stairs. Rest for more than 3 seconds and the stairs would disappear entirely, while the stair count would reset as well. Thus, I mustn’t stop.
[200,000 stairs has been climbed. ‘Rune Crested Shield’ can be obtained. Will you head to the next level?]
I swallowed my spit. It was extremely tempting. My legs trembled, and I felt as if I would collapse at a touch. But even Etaqua, who had lower constitution than me, still hadn’t stopped. The two of us competed in good faith. I had climbed merely twice my limit. All my resolutions up to this point would become a joke if this was enough to make me fall. My pride wouldn’t allow it.
I lost feeling in my legs. I had even stopped sweating at this point; all the moisture in my body might have evaporated. It felt like I had been doing nothing but climbing stairs for several days or so. I was already half out of my mind. And at last,
[390,000 stairs has been climbed. ‘Paladin’s Cape’ can be obtained. Will you head toward the next level?]
What I had been aiming for, the Paladin’s Cape, had appeared as a reward. I swallowed audibly. Goosebumps broke out all over my body as a sense of liberation filled me. I stared at Etaqua. Etaqua also stared at me.
“Right now…if you stop…then I’ll also stop.”
Etaqua strongly shook his head. He then gave up walking, crawling instead. This, little bastard. Dragons, down to the very last one of them, were famous for their excessive pride. Of all things, a dragon that crawled up stairs. I was clueless as to whether he had thrown away his pride, or was saving it, but apparently he had no intention of losing to me. It was the moment that the friendly competition became a desperate battle.
Afterwards, a message asking ‘will you head toward the next level’ would appear every 50,000 stairs climbed. But at this point, these kind of messages didn’t even enter my eyes. I simply walked. Walked, and walked. On this never-ending path, I continued to climb these stairs.
[500,000 stairs has been climbed. ‘Garb of the Fist King’ can be obtained. Will you head toward the next level?]
It changed, from Paladin’s Cape to Garb of the Fist King. My entire body felt heavy. It was as if the force of gravity had changed. I got the impression that someone was telling me to stop here, that I’d done enough.
Etaqua collapsed. But it was amazing enough an achievement to have come this far; his constitution was lower than mine. He, who should have been exhausted long ago, had come to this point on competitive spirit alone. After putting Etaqua into the Jewel of Space, I once again began moving. I had come this far. As such, shouldn’t I see it through the ‘end’?
[Stamina has reached the limit.]
[Stamina has reached the limit.]
[Stamina has reached the limit.]
A notice repeatedly popped up as if in warning. The color of my legs had taken on a livid blue, and the veins bulged as if on the verge of bursting. But still I had yet to arrive at the ‘end’.
I will reach the place that none could reach. That’s how I intended to confirm my determination. It was like putting a restraint on myself as if in reminder: How could I, someone trying to change everything, be allowed to be incapable of even this?.
I even lost my sense of time. It felt as if I’d been walking ceaselessly for a week, a month…perhaps even longer than that. My entire body felt stretched and withered, and my mind had shut down. I was mindlessly moving forward as if I’d become a machine.
[1,000,000 stairs has been climbed. User may obtain the final reward which is only given to those who has far transcended their limits. A higher reward than this does not exist.]
The end…where none could reach!
With that, after having reached the millionth step, I could laugh.
A man appeared on the summit of the 33rd level. A height that easily passed 2m. Stiff-looking countenance. A man with the seal of ‘Heavenly Fire(火天)’ branded on his earlobe.
“To think an ascendant would appear in the realm I’m in charge of, has it been 3,700 years?”
Looking at the collapsed person, I rubbed my chin.
“I don’t know why a Yaksha who has only just finished the Warrior’s Ritual would challenge the Ritual of Ascension, but there’ll be an upheaval at Rakshasa Citadale. And…the Black Yaksha’s seal?”
Finally, I laughed delightedly at this interesting find. It was common practice for Yaksha to head straight to Rakshasa Citadale after carrying out the Warrior’s Ritual. There had never been a Yaksha like this who challenged the Ritual of Ascension as well, because in the first place, the Ritual of Ascension was a trial given to Rakshasa like me, not Yaksha.
The Twelve Rakshasa. Half-god beings who managed the 12 realms of Rakshasa Mountain. However, a Yaksha had carried out the ritual of a Rakshasa. A huge commotion would arise at Rakshasa Citadale if this truth were come to light. Such an incident hadn’t occurred for the past 3,700 years. What’s more, he even had the ‘Black Yaksha’s seal’ which was labeled as cursed.
‘There are some peculiarities, for a Yaksha, but interesting. I have to say, there are many fellows who are quite interesting among the greenhorns who succeeded in the ritual this time.’
Of course, this one was a masterpiece even among them all. Perhaps, after such a long time, a bunch of ‘Successors’ would appear.
Successor. A title given to those qualified to reach the apex. There had been none for the past several thousands of years. And now this time, a flock of Yaksha who may be worthy of that title had emerged. They were still no more than fledglings, but their potential was limitless.
‘What kind of means did sir Daerasun use?’
There must definitely have been an abnormal set of events for so many of them to appear, when no such individuals had appeared in the past several thousand years. At the same time, the appearance of fellows like this, who weren’t normal in more ways than one, was a powerful sign of someone playing behind the scenes. A serious expression took over me for a moment.
‘He’s in a hurry for some reason. It looks like it wasn’t false when sir Daerasun was saying something threatening had appeared.’
Daerasun, who governed this Rakshasa realm, the Rakshasa Mountain, was an absolute being. If even he felt threatened into taking action, then it must mean that something ominous was occurring somewhere he didn’t know. Following these thoughts, I shook my head. It wasn’t my place to worry about that. Daerasun was someone who could perceive everything and see farther than any other. However the Twelve Rakshasa may be considered an amazing entity, Daerasun was someone who stood even higher above. It was preposterous for the likes of myself to judge his thoughts. I will no doubt come to understand when the time is right.
‘In any case…the tournament this time round should be worth watching.’
Rather than that, right now I should be directing my attention to the greenhorns who have finished their rituals. Many outstanding Yaksha worthy of being deemed as an all-time new generation had appeared. I was curious as to just how many of these could win the title of Successor. Finally, I lifted the collapsed fellow and slung him over my shoulder. The next moment, I was gone like a flash.