A drop of water fell.
The drop of water falling onto my forehead brought me to my senses. But I couldn’t move, as if my body was entirely bound. I opened my eyes at this and discovered I was buried in a pit of sand with only my head narrowly popping out.
“The foolish Yaksha has finally awoken!”
A sonorous voice. I turned my head around and saw a red-skinned man, holding a rod, looking down at me. Although he appeared to be a human, he wasn’t one, because there could be no human with blue flames blazing from their hair. Furthermore, the seal branded on his earlobe was colored red unlike me. It was definitely the seal of a Yaksha.
“What, are you a mute who can’t speak?”
“Who are you? And where is this?”
“Oh! You do know how to speak.”
The man grinned.
“Sir Hwacheon has ordered me to save your life. I am a Yaksha of the ‘Rising Mountain’ clan, named ‘Hwarang Gu’, and in this Rakshasa Citadale I am assigned the position of ‘Flame Lotus Chief’. This here is, well, the treatment room so to speak. That’s enough for explanations, yes?”
Not at all. In the first place all I did was climb the stairs, and yet when I opened my eyes, I was in Rakshasa Citadale.
Rakshasa Citadale…the place I had surmised to be the ‘center’ of Rakshasa Mountain. I did plan on going there at some point, but this was much faster than anticipated. The surrounding scenery was as strange as this situation itself as well. Although this was called the treatment room, all I saw were circular holes dotting the place and the dirt which I was buried with, and through a strange device made of bamboo, which was fixed on the ceiling, some unknown water drops were falling. I was withholding my reply, when the man who introduced himself as Hwarang Gu spoke.
“Anyway, I hear you even passed the ‘Ritual of Ascension’ right after finishing the Warrior’s Ritual? Do you know that Rakshasa Citadale is in upheaval because of you?”
“The Ritual of Ascension?”
“That’s right! That cape above your head right now is proof of it.”
I raised my head with difficulty, and why, a black cape was floating there. When Hwarang Gu made a move to touch me, the cape flew over in a furious flutter and struck the back of his hand.
“Woah, woah. Look at it go, thinking I want to harm you. Anyhow, it sure is feisty. Indeed a battlegear with ego given only to ascendants.”
I frowned. Come to think of it, I remember seeing a message of having obtained something like that. I opened Mind’s Eye, and the information regarding the cape popped up.
<Ascendant’s Cape (Value – 300,000)>
🌑 Agi +5
🌑 Due to possessing ego, will only serve a worthy master.
🌑 Possesses Great Magic(S)-grade defensive capability.
『A special battlegear given only to those who have safely completed the Ritual of Ascension. The type of battlegear given varies, but it is told that each and every single one of them contain tremendous powers.』
Is this how it feels to be struck on the top of my head with a hammer? A cape possessing ego…what’s more, a Great Magic(S)-grade defensive capability…Just this cape alone could defend against most magic. An S-grade defensive capability meant that it could even block powerful magic with destructive power matching the scale of a city. The equipments under the name Paladin? Sure they were good, but even 10 of those gathered couldn’t hold a candle to a single gear with Great Magic(S)-grade defensive capability; that’s how immense its ability was.
With just this one cape, it would be possible to put most magicians to shame. I had seen such items of A-grade a few times before, but an S-grade was a first. Moreover, it even possessed an ego which allowed it to detect and defend against dangers by itself. Could it get any better than this?
“Originally it is something only granted to the Twelve Rakshasa. For the likes of a Yaksha to perform the ritual of a Rakshasa, you’ve got some guts there. And so, this is this most important question but…what are you up to? For what reason did you go so far as to complete the Ritual of Ascension with the Black Yaksha’s seal?”
It seemed that I was being recognized as a ‘Yaksha’. He was unhappy at me because of the black seal branded on my earlobe, although I had thought it was because of the Yaksha stone I had absorbed.
“Before that, can’t you first take me out of here?”
“Come out by yourself.”
“By my self?”
I exerted all the strength in my body, but it didn’t budge. Hwarang Gu clearly showed no intention of helping whatsoever as he merely watched.
I didn’t seem to be simply dirt. It stuck to my body with a strange viscosity. It was most likely a specially produced dirt, and it was as if it had the effect of urging stability on the body and mana.
‘It’s dirt which moves mana. It should be repelled and fall off if I circulate it in reverse.’
It wasn’t such a difficult thing to do, because I could freely circulate the mana twisted into helical forms in any direction after undergoing the mana reconstruction.
The grains of sand drew apart from me slowly. After I felt that sensation, I moved my body once more, and in one go I managed to pull myself out of the sand pit.
“You are quite well-versed in manipulating chakra. Even though most reasonably skilled Yaksha would suffer for a long time if they were to fall into the ‘dirt of purification’.”
Chakra? It was probably another name for mana. He seemed to be sizing me up in his own way, but I did feel a bit of apprehension. By the look of things, I would surely have to act like a Yaksha. If anything, I was relieved to see the Jewel of Space on top of a white outfit placed right before me. After collecting the Jewel of Space, I put on the outfit piece by piece as I opened Mind’s Eye, and as a result of my inspection I could tell that the man before me was the ‘real deal’.
Name: Hwarang Gu (Value – 167,700)
Class: Flame Lotus Chief
Special Note: The master of the azure flames, a pure and extremely powerful flame.
Skills: Nine Phoenix Azure Flames(Lv9), Yaksha Movement Art(Lv9), Extreme Flame Mind Art(Lv8)
The perfect specimen of pure stats, I would say. This is someone who had trained himself to the extreme! In the present situation, he was practically ‘impossible to confront’.
“Hansung Oh? What an unusual name. From which mountain did you come?”
“I can’t remember.”
There was nothing for it. No other choice than to pretend to be a Yaksha as I explore this place. It was also an opportunity. Although I would have to examine the others as well, I felt that most other other-races couldn’t even compare when it came to pure strength alone. They could become a great source of strength if I could move them in a friendly way. That, or I could make early preparations for a potential threat. I may even find something of benefit to me.
‘This is a challenge and adventure as well.’
To me, they were a ‘mystery’. Likewise, they also treated me like a ‘mystery’. I wanted to look a little further into this mystery. I nodded my head.
“When I came to, I was climbing the stairs.”
“Did your memory ascend to heaven too while performing the Ritual of Ascension?”
“What a boring joke.”
“…You’re quite the interesting one aren’t you.”
Hwarang Gu crossed his arms. He looked at me as if wanting to determine the truth. I decided to go all-out brazenly. If they recognized me as a ‘Yaksha’, then there was no need to be shy.
“What do I have to do from now?”
“Are you truly unaware?”
“I wouldn’t have asked if I’d known.”
Shrugging his shoulders, Hwarang Gu gave a small click of his tongue.
“You’ll be participating in the ‘Stigma Tournament’. It’s where the greenhorns who have completed the Warrior’s Ritual compete with one another. You’ll be targeted since you became famous the moment you appeared. But don’t worry. You’ll only die at worst.”
“Will it begin immediately?”
That would be troublesome. I had to consider withdrawing just in case that Stigma Tournament is beyond what I can handle. But thankfully, Hwarang Gu shook his head.
“We value and respect harmony amongst the Yaksha. The next 34 days will be free. You may form a group before the Stigma Tournament begins, or even enter another’s group. Or else…hm, explaining with words is too vague so follow me. I’ll give you a tour of Rakshasa Citadale while we’re at it.”
Hwarang Gu moved at one, and I quickly followed behind. Upon leaving the treatment room I could see countless other rooms. The height of the ceiling appeared to be about 20m high, and white-winged monkeys were moving here and there, either cleaning or carrying out tasks.
‘I never expected there to be so many white monkeys.’
White monkeys were special monsters. They weren’t aggressive, but they had high intelligence, and more than anything they were experts at finding ‘miracle elixirs’. Not much about them was known apart from that, because they were so few in number, and the number of people who succeeded in taming one could be counted on a hand.
However, this place was teeming with white monkeys. There were over two hundred of them, as far as the eye could see. It was quite a marvelous sight, to see those rare white monkeys cleaning or doing miscellaneous work. We finally left the palace only to be greeted by Mother Nature.
It was beyond the scale of vast nature. Nothing was small. A precipice reaching as high as the sky, the clouds that mysteriously enveloped it, and the waterfall descending from that precipice…and palaces, no smaller than most reasonably sized buildings, lined up in rows. And there were the Yaksha. The appearances of the Yaksha were largely varied. Mainly it was their color of skin or hair that differed. Most possessed features similar to humans, but it was like they were divided into every color of the rainbow. Every single one of them stared at me strangely.
“It’s because everyone has an interest in you. It’s been a long 3,700 years since a Yaksha has passed the Ritual of Ascension after all.”
Just what is this Ritual of Ascension he’s been going on about…
The black cape was already naturally worn on my back. It gave no discomfort, and it was so light as if I weren’t wearing it that I just might lose it by mistake. Finally, Hwarang Gu took me to a spacious training hall.
“This is the sparring hall. Here you can spar with a white monkey of your choice.”
White monkeys and around a hundred Yaksha were in the midst of sparring. Normal white monkeys resembled small monkeys, but the white monkeys in the training hall were the size of boulders. Moreover, they showed extraordinary movements as if they’d learnt martial arts.
“Ah, don’t touch the monkey king. It has a foul temper, so you might die.”
There was a huge white monkey even among them. It was the owner of a herculean power; the ground quaked when it stomped its foot, and a thrust of its punch would send the air screaming.
One woman was facing that monkey king bare-handed. Indigo colored hair, white skin, and graceful looks that wouldn’t look out of place on a portrait depicting beauty. Although she had an exemplary feline look and appeared strong-willed, she showed a much closer look to a ‘human’ than the Hwarang Gu who was before me.
“Yuseol! Her Divine Spirit True Fist is as beautiful and destructive as ever.”
The woman exchanging fists with the monkey king stomped the ground and launched a fist. The ground split apart as the monkey king was struck directly on his stomach. The monkey king’s huge body was blown back and, with a crashing noise, was embedded in the ground. The woman called Yuseol casually dusted off her fist and exited the sparring hall.
“If only she was a bit more affable then she would have easily formed a group already. Tsk tsk.”
Looking at her prowess, she probably wouldn’t need a group. I could clearly feel the difference in ‘level’ between her and the other Yaksha in the sparring hall. Although not quite at the level of Hwarang Gu, it was definitely enough to be included among the ranks of the powerful.
“I’ll take you to the library next. If you neither want to form a group, nor to train, then you can just stay in the library and read.”
Hwarang Gu moved busily. As far as scale went, the library didn’t lose out to the other palaces. As usual, there were white monkeys inside as I entered the place, either organizing books or cleaning dust. Behind them was an enormous library. Books, appearing to number in the tens of thousands or perhaps tenfold that, were lined up in rows. Every single one of these books were related to martial arts. And in the midst of it all was one man.
“Dear me, I never expected sir Wolcheon to be here. I would have come later if I had known.”
Hwarang Gu hastily got onto a knee and bowed his head. The person called Wolcheon…it was an old man with white hair, with a face that gave off a harsh impression without a hint of benevolence.
‘That old man is…’
I couldn’t help but to share in Hwarang Gu’s surprise, because that old man was the person who had introduced himself as Rakshasa and handed over the ‘Heartless Soul Stealer Blade’ before dying.