Its humanoid build surged with mana, as though searing with a cobalt-like flame. Despite not towering like a goblin king or being as colossal as the Snake Lord, it stood slightly taller than a 3-meter-high orc. Wielding a hefty weapon that emitted the sound of a million crickets, it was a greatly irritating noise for Izel. Thankfully, his ears were already inactive. With [Flawlation], it appeared as nothing more than a black outline brimming with a bluish hue, wielding a greatsword that emitted strange ripples.
This was the first time Izel found himself facing a creature about which he hadn’t heard a single piece of information. ‘There’s no way high-walkers have ever faced this monstrosity,’ he doubted, feeling all of his hair stand on end. A blind man fighting an unknown adversary was a significant handicap…
‘But I had to fight to win,’ he thought, adopting a battle stance, resolving never to initiate the first move. Instead observing the knight-like monster’s bodily and battle responses. Meanwhile, the gatekeeper also stood motionless, watching him closely. It seemed as though it, too, was surveying what kind of prey this walker might be.
‘This isn’t good.’ Sweat nervously beads down the blind man’s cheek as he faces an unexpected challenge. The abomination before him acts solely based on his actions, a stark contrast to the monsters he encountered in previous tutorials. The extreme difficulty of this encounter becomes painfully apparent with each raid, pushing Izel further towards the brink of death.
Perhaps this is what it’s like to climb a sloppy mountain with nothing but bare hands.
The featureless dark facial region unveiled a terrifying, symbiote-like maw that emitted a high-pitched, deafening growl. In an instant, Brotnos’ greatsword arced horizontally towards Izel’s neck.
The overwhelming ability to close the distance without a single sound or ripple frightened the blind man as if time had frozen. In haste, he involuntarily leaned backward, narrowly evading the latter’s greatsword from grazing his neck. Specifically, it was a delicate hair’s breadth evasion that reflected his dumbfounded expression as the surging blade whisked off a few of his bangs, dropping them to the ground.
The aftershock blew the pitch-black haze away overwhelmingly, akin to a lash of wind, as its impact resonated throughout the atmosphere. A strong force indeed, raising and scattering dust and dirt.
But that wasn’t all. Amidst the chaos, a humanoid’s roundhouse kick swiftly found the blind man’s gut. His mouth gaping wide, he was forcefully propelled back into the darkness. If there had been a wall, he would have crashed into it, shattering it into smithereens.
‘Such absurd amount of resilience, just from a kick.’ Izel commented, as his body became impassive, and his mind went blank. As the aftershock surged through his body, he stiffened his muscles with mana, aiming to preserve his organs from being ripped to shreds. This effort caused blood to spout out of his mouth and nose. The agony was so immense that, for a brief moment, the brown-tanned man felt the cataclysmic void of death. But…
‘I wouldn’t allow myself to be defeated…’ He clenched both his fists and bit his lower lip, jolting himself awake. ‘…so easily,’ Blood dripped. Momentarily, he unsheathed his sword and struck it into the ground. Of course, it wasn’t easy, since he was coursing through the air at an overwhelming speed.
A trail of friction scraped between his blade and the ground before he gained control of his trembling feet. Despite the immense agony plaguing him relentlessly, Izel narrowed his vision, which was obstructed by a blur. Thoughts bitterly raced through his shaky mind: ‘This shouldn’t be called a monster!’
Right. To be precise, it was a mysterious nightmare with limitless range, superior physical strength, and overwhelming mana. A calamity with stats that defy the law of strategy and proper planning. It was a completely distinct monster from the ones he had fought so far. It was as though all his planning and critical thinking had just shattered to pieces. His strategy of isolating the weaker opponent to increase his stats before having a battle with the apex wouldn’t work here.
It was a confrontational death match; no surrounding monsters, and no escape route. Just a one-on-one battle between a symbiote-like abomination and a blind man. The sudden epiphany of his new reality clouded his mind; despair and confusion overcame Izel. So, the straightforward way to survive was to defeat this monster. It was as if giving the Walker enough time to dwell on his thoughts was forbidden.
The latter’s greatsword shot toward him at breakneck speed. It was an attack too potent to be parried by the blind man’s shortsword. In that case, he instantly decided to evade with a minimal amount of movement to react fast enough to its predictable next attack. At least, that was his thought at that moment.
“Argh!” He executed a backflip at the last second, narrowly evading the powerful thrust. However, the attack unexpectedly fragmented into seven separate thrusts, grazing his left arm with two of them, causing blood to splatter. Without missing a beat, the black humanoid anticipated his reaction and countered with a swift right-horizontal swing attack.
Shaking off doubts and hesitation, Izel shifted to the left, managing to narrowly evade the attack. A thin tendril of blood splattered around his chest, accompanied by the cracking of bones as he staggered back one meter.
‘Ugh! This fucker!’ Profanity raced through his mind as successive swings assailed him, leaving no chance for recovery. The Greatsword flashed perilously close to his head, followed by an unrelenting chain of onslaughts. Izel struggled to maintain his ground, gritting his teeth against the numbing sensation in his hand as he parried the final attack to the left.
As excruciating pain surged through every fiber of his being, blood began to emerge from his body. The attacks were hard enough to parry, but not completely. Limping back cautiously, his cloak became soaked in blood as gore continually beaded down. His head pounded violently as he lost more blood, and his body trembled uncontrollably.
‘I wanted to save my skill for later, but…’ he thought. Without a doubt, it was the wrong idea against this adversary. He had no choice; he had to use it, or he might faint from excessive blood loss.
[Active Skill: Hemostasis (E+) had been activated]
His body immediately felt a searing sensation as blood surged within him. “I can’t get used to this sensation,” he muttered, sucking his tongue. Agony crept throughout the blind man’s body. His blood cells snaked through his vessels, stitching together the external wounds until they vanished. Meanwhile, his cracked bones closed using the sizzling blood, healing rapidly.
With his left hand, he shook off the remaining patches of gore from his body, leaving only sporadic traces. Crimson blood littered the ground. Afterward, he leaped toward the area where he last envisioned the monster, but to his surprise, the humanoid was nowhere to be found. Instead, only a hazy void greeted him.
* * *
Instead of nervously surveying his surroundings through his [Flawlation], which had become stable compared to the blur earlier, he had his [Sound Reading] active again and focused on both. No matter where the being could be hiding, he just had to sense ‘that’ point where ripples and frequencies emerged. It was a point that could change the tides in this battle.
If he couldn’t find ‘that’ point, this blind man would tire out just trying to stay alive. As if in a trance, Izel concentrated on his hazy surroundings, much like he did in the E-rank dungeon. It was faint, but a somewhat familiar wave across the white vastness of space panoramaed his [Flawlation]. Like the gradual waves of a bell’s tintinnabulation, the chirping sound of a million crickets seemed to merge among the faint ripples and frequencies.
It was a point, the blind man named ‘Focal Point’.
“Found you!” His expression brightened upon realizing his foe’s location. However, the main question lingered: how would the gatekeeper react if he closed the distance? Brotnos seemed to welcome close combat, often overwhelming opponents and preventing counterattacks. The blind man was puzzled by the ease of discovering the humanoid’s position. Could it be that it wanted to be found?
Regardless, this was his chance. He needed to capitalize on the opportunity and unleash a series of chained attacks towards the gatekeeper, even if its behavior was anticipated.
In the end, with mana imbued in his feet and sword, he unleashed multiple jabs and swung in all directions. However, the gatekeeper parried all the chained attacks without taking them lightly.
Its featureless facial region formed a light growl as it barred the shortsword, materializing an eerie, opaque, knight-like helmet to counter the last stab. The Gatekeeper was shocked by these consecutive chained onslaughts, allowing the Walker to get dangerously close, attempting to demonstrate the gargantuan difference between their overall stats. However, it had no idea that the flex of overwhelming strength lay within this blind man’s predictions.
Moreover, the Blind Walker anticipated why such a powerful being as the gatekeeper was guarding the gate of the unknown. What lay behind it? No, what was it protecting?
‘Let’s not dwell on it!’ Overthinking things was taboo. Right now, he has to focus on the task at hand. Izel took another stab. Suddenly, he realized that Brotnos could only counter an attack if it was aimed at its fatal points: the nap, left lower chest, spine, forehead, and even the attempt to slash its legs off to take it off-guard.
‘I see. I have almost gotten used to the 360-degree view of the flawlation.’ The brown-skinned teen pondered, but it wasn’t the time to pat himself on the shoulder; relatively, it was a crucial moment to utilize what he just recognized. But that stab was a feint. Instead, he immediately created a wide swing coated with mana in an attempt to slash off the humanoid’s body in half in one go, from head to crotch, The sudden endeavor forced the gatekeeper to take a step back. Then he persisted with a vertical slash.
All three attempts were so fast that the humanoid couldn’t fend off the onslaughts with its greatsword. However, preferably, the entirety of its chest half evaporated precisely before that slash could get to it.
‘Evade…? No, it disperses its upper body. Ah, that doesn’t matter,’ Izel briefly ponders. The point of those three attacks wasn’t to cause the monster any damage. To be precise, all those attacks were decoys. Izel coated his foot with more mana and booted the gatekeeper from the side almost instantaneously, just as it previously did to the latter.
To be honest, most monsters would instantly lose their balance from a mana-imbued kick. However, this nightmare’s legs slid backward as if affected by the kick. It’s surging, reformed head lurched concurrently as its limbs stiffened onto the ground to balance its stance.
‘What kind of unwavering nightmare is this?’ Baffled for a second, the blind man didn’t hesitate. He aimed directly at its joints with a lesser concentration of mana. Or at least, that’s how it seemed. Regardless, that didn’t matter; it appeared to be less effective. However, Izel didn’t believe physical attacks would be entirely ineffective.
‘This… was just unexpected.’ Gasping for air, his heart raced rapidly. Sweat beaded down, trailing along his right cheek onto his delicate neck. Despite this, he persisted. Frost escaped his lips. After their brief exchange of attacks, Izel distanced himself, allowing time to properly catch his breath.
The stats of this monstrosity were incredibly high, yet it seemed to have underestimated its opponent even more clearly. ‘It’s even switching from ‘attack’ to ‘defense’ now,’ he considered. Clearly, an assailant capable of efficiently alternating between attack and defense demonstrated overwhelming stats. A faint, hollow laugh formed on the lips of this blind man as he fully comprehended why it wasn’t referred to as a gatekeeper for mere frivolity.
Nevertheless, the longer this exchange continued, the more adaptable this monster would become. Should that happen, it wouldn’t matter if his opponent attacked or defended; defeat would be inevitable.
Izel wiped the sweat away with his left hand, feeling the daunting disadvantage weighing upon him. As the realization settled in, he understood the intricate manipulation potential of the humanoid body before him. Its intelligence to adapt and predict his battle patterns extended the fights, possibly concealing even more abilities. Despite this quick interaction, Izel grimly concluded that if the confrontation continued, his demise was inevitable.
‘I must end this swiftly,’ he thought. With determination, the blind man resolved to use every resource at his disposal. He lunged towards the creature, his mana-infused aurora swinging once again. The monster adeptly parried each strike, demonstrating complete adaptation to Izel’s attack patterns. But there was a reason behind Izel’s consistent swaying of his shortsword, no matter what…
‘It’s about time to end this raid.’ He firmly decided.
[Chained onslaughts detected.]
[Attack speed increases by +11%.]
… was to activate the Aurora Effect.
Now initiated, the rapid mana-coated attack didn’t stop as his sword became lighter. An aurora-like heterochromatic aura seeped from its blades as if he were one with the sword in every attack. After all, there had to be a limit to how much impact this damned gatekeeper could handle.
‘To be precise…’ the blind man briefly thought back and pieced an idea together, ‘…I think it couldn’t handle a specific attack, so it vaporized its torso to evade it.’ Aye, if he could put continuous pressure on this non-human character, it would eventually and unconsciously show an opening.
As predicted, an opening point emerged from its black outline. It represented a gap he needed to utilize instantly.
[Critical point detected.]
[Reaction speed: +6%.]
Izel’s hypothesis proved correct. The Gatekeeper glimpsed its impending devastating end and leaped away, evading countless slashes. Nevertheless, the onslaught persisted, culminating in a huge collision. Overwhelming mana dissipated the surrounding haze in a stupendous air blast.
Shortly after, the blind man suddenly appeared behind it, radiating murderous malice as he slashed toward the monster. Sensing the attack, it swiftly ducked and rolled to evade the swing, which smashed into the ground. Brotnos performed multiple backward somersaults to regain footing as the monster rushed with simultaneous vertical and horizontal slashes, blurring in speed.
Amid this chaotic exchange, the nightmare carefully imbued mana into its feet, attempting to execute a grass-cut maneuver against the blind man.
As the cold air at the bottom shook, Izel hopped up, evading it. He countered with a mana-coated kick to the latter’s black cheek, the impact pushing the humanoid back two meters, leaving it in an unstable stance. Without allowing it time to regain balance, more onslaughts from Izel came into contact with the latter’s materialized greatsword.
Before the gatekeeper could ponder further about what the blind man had in mind, a mysterious clap emanated from the walker. His hands, briefly off his blade, were now coated with mana. A bluish-greenish hue of mana brushed past the monster, catching it off guard before it could realize what was happening…
[Critical point detected.]
[Reaction speed: +6%.]
Slightly confused, a quick stab shot directly from behind without a slight delay. It was as though it were an afterimage, and the blind man had been intensely at its front all along.
“IM…POSS…BLE!” Baffled words that couldn’t form in its hollow mind began to seep out of the monster.
[A clean thrust had been initiated.]
‘The monster spoke?’ He briefly contemplated the notion but dismissed it as an expected phenomenon, unlike encountering the Goblin Lord. However, now wasn’t the time to dwell on it. The result of his quick decision, trick, and unexpected action had paid off. As if time had frozen, his mana—accompanied by a sinister aurora of heterochromatic energy—cried out from his shortsword. The thrust shot towards the creature’s forehead.
Sizzling hot, black, muddy liquid splattered and poured out of the newly formed hole. The gatekeeper staggered back two to three steps, visibly dazed for a moment before regaining its stance. Though it seemed a little dazed, its life wasn’t in extreme danger.
“IMPOO… SIBLE! HOW… DARE! GR… R!”
A terrifying, symbiote-like maw formed on its facial region, and a deafening cry erupted with unbelievable rage. As a result, the ground started to shake—not just the ground, but the entire space they occupied.
Realizing this, Izel quickly deactivated his [Sound Reading]. Just in time, he prevented his ears from being busted like before. ‘I mustn’t let my guard down for even a second,’ he thought, gritting his teeth until the shuddering subsided.
It seemed the monster couldn’t believe what it had just experienced. This prideful entity wasn’t slightly shocked; instead, it was flabbergasted and full of fury. A blind Walker was able to fight with it more beautifully and last this long without any critical damage.
Of course, it acknowledged that the latter had some mysterious skill that healed the previous impaled injuries, sustaining only patches of dry gores here and there on his cloak. ‘How dreadful,’ it pondered briefly as the dripping mud from the deep hole on its forehead made its fury skyrocket. ‘It was about time I got serious,’ it settled. Just like the Walkers that came before him, it was time to end his petty, insignificant life and engrave despair and agony onto his peasant soul.
The creature’s teeth, akin to a symbiote, formed an eerie and hollow grin. Simultaneously, the muddy liquid reversed its flow, retreating into the hole in the gatekeeper’s forehead before closing itself.
Gobsmacked, the Walker sighed stressfully. ‘It was similar to the dorm’s auto-healing, the waiting felt eternal.’ Familiarly, he thought back…
As Brotnos raised its head, a black outlined grin painted a panorama for the blind man, flawlation obscured. Izel’s entire body flinched in terror, his head throbbing from the sudden resurgence of accumulated trauma within him.
Unconsciously, it was the monster’s bloodlust stirring up the unrest.
Though he couldn’t see the eerie or terrifying grin in real time, chill goosebumps rose across his whole body. He could also feel the change in its bodily visuals, indicating that the monstrosity was about to get dangerously serious.
‘Ah… I’m glad the physical attacks didn’t appear completely useless,’ Izel briefly pondered, gritting his teeth to endure the mental agony. Since the humanoid felt imperiled by this walker, indicating that his chained attacks and tricks were perfectly effective, it concluded that it wasn’t immune to all physical attacks. As long as he utilized any trick in his mind to lower its guard just for a split second and unleash an attack strong enough to penetrate its armor-like defense.
‘An attack to its head or a grave impact might be able to kill it,’ he hypothesized. Truthfully, not many monsters are unaffected by decapitation, but Izel also considered that this monster shouldn’t be an exception. On the contrary, from the instant healing from the ‘thrust’ attack just now, he could tell it could regenerate even its head after being guillotined.
However, employing new tactics learned from experienced hunters should prove effective. The earlier assurance was enough to prompt him to give it another try. He utilized everything at his disposal, setting up a long link to his trick, culminating in his final attack. Decisively, he steadily condensed his mana into his ‘Long Collar Cardigan Cloak’ and ‘Cloud Boots.’
‘Let’s test these newly acquired items,’ he took a deep breath, he braced himself, enduring the accumulated trauma.
[The Special Effects of Stats Boost Long Collar Cardigan Cloak (D) had been activated.]
[Boost all stats temporarily by 10.]
[Increases heightened senses by 30% for one minute.]
[Activation time has been created.]
[Activation time left: 00:00:56.]
[Cloud Boots had been detected.]
[A Special Condition had been met.]
[Agility had solely been added to Movement Speed]
[Movement speed has increased by 50%]
[Black Cardigan with flexible polyethylene fiber internal wear had hardened tenfold.]
After the spring of messages, all of his stats had temporarily increased by 10. His boots and cloak were shrouded in a whitish-blue ambiance. In other words, his body was rejuvenated as though he were being infused with euphoria-inducing drugs. His body felt light, brimming with overwhelming stamina.
‘I’ll use all my items and skills, even if it’s unbearable.’ He firmly believed that bearing such a burden was necessary to shift the tides back in his favor and win this raid as soon as possible before his mental trauma reached its breaking point. Instantly, he lightly pushed his foot off the cold ground; his [Flawlation] locked onto the target as he dashed through the air with overwhelming speed. With agility 50% higher than normal and strength over 45, Izel managed to regain his balance while zooming through the air.
This became achievable after ten hours of training. In the waiting room, he will demonstrate what he has practiced extensively before. Focusing mana at the tip, he drew out its sinister, aurora-like heterochromatic aura. Yet, he wasn’t arrogant enough to aim directly at its head again.
“I…WILL…KILL YOU!!! WAL… KER!”
With murderous intent surging around the humanoid, it let out scattered yet pretty comprehensible words. Wielding its materialized greatsword with vigor, it potently seared out cobalt-like mana. Horizontally swinging its sword, it formed a wide magical slash toward the impending walker.
The blind man, aiming to slice its neck open using his new speed and strength, leaped over to evade that overwhelming slash.
“FU… CK YOU!” Izel responded the best he could.
Both of them had adapted to each other’s attack patterns and bodily responses, with their speeds spiking to greater heights. The gatekeeper wore an eerie grin resembling a grim reaper, while the other had a subtle expression. They collided with such force that they struck each other and their surroundings fiercely.
An unfamiliar, loud metal-to-metal clash rattled their brains upon impact. Shockwaves erupted as multiple attacks bombarded both sides. Despite the overall coating of mana, the onslaught of high-pitched frequencies interfered with his [Sound Reading], causing blood to spurt from his ears and nose.
Izel, amidst agonizing pain, didn’t have time to scream. He only managed to let out a groan, gnashing his blood-stained teeth fiercely.
[Health falls below 10%]
[Effect 1:Groot’s tentacles had bound around the user like steel armor; had been activated]
[Groot Vest Effect 2: Groot Tentacles had been sent to the impending enemy; had been activated]
After a series of drowned-out messages, his entire body shook. Leafy vines snaked underneath his clothes, weaving through every layer of his skin and swathing themselves onto his flesh-like armor. But his mind, reaching its limit, phased in and out.
‘Will I die like this?’ The cataclysmic void of death once again filled his bleak mind. However, unconsciously, Mana disagreed with him.