Chapter 74: Finally a Tutorial (16)
Chi-Woo came out of the front porch and stretched. After finis.h.i.+ng his warm-up, he nodded vigorously.
Since he had taken it easy in his running and rested well for the past couple of days, his condition was at its peak. Although he felt a little bit of strain in some places, it didn’t hinder him from walking or running at all.
‘I feel light.’ Chi-Woo jumped up and down and smiled. It was a bit of an exaggeration, but his body felt as light as a feather, like he would be able to fly if he ran. And he wasn’t just imagining it; his weight had dropped from the eighties to the seventies.
‘Then, perhaps…’ With a thumping heart, Chi-Woo checked his physical stats.
1. Name & Rank: Choi Chi-Woo (EX)
2. Height & Weight: 180.5 cm & 79.8kg
[Mental Fort.i.tude D]
Chi-Woo had hoped that his stamina would’ve at least increased from rank F to E, but the reality disappointed him.
‘I ran for a month consistently, but there has been no change…’
[Check your user information.]
While looking at his stats disappointedly, Chi-Woo flinched as Mimi suddenly spoke up.
‘You surprised me! Can’t you give me a warning next time…? Also, I am looking at my user information.’
[Not the special one, but the basic user information.]
[Just look at it, especially your stamina.]
Following her advice, Chi-Woo brought forth his user information.
2. [Choi Chi-Woo]’s Stats
‘Huh?’ The description appending his stamina had changed from ‘Weak’ to ‘Suffering’.
[The basic user information shows your current state. All the muscles in your body are suffering from muscle pain due to your continuous workout.]
‘Isn’t it bad that I’m suffering?’
[It’s hard to say it’s bad or good. When a bone breaks cleanly and is reattached again, it will be st.u.r.dier than before. It’s the same for muscles. Stimulation from exercising might tear your muscle fibers and cause temporary pain, but they will become stronger and tougher when they heal. And they won’t tear from the same level of strain as before.]
Chi-Woo exclaimed in realization. ‘Then I guess I should rest well to give my muscles time to heal.’
[You should tear them apart again.]
[Harden your body more so that it would be able to protect itself.]
It would be easier for Chi-Woo to run if he waited until his body was fully healed. However, he mustn’t be content with that. He had to continue pus.h.i.+ng himself to run and stimulate his body even more. Only then would his body cry out, ‘Shees.h.!.+ What a ruthless owner! I am going to become harder and stronger to show him!’ and move more vigorously. In other words, Mimi was telling Chi-Woo to increase the difficulty level of his exercise as his body’s condition became better. Chi-Woo agreed.
‘I see. So, because my ranks didn’t go up, you wanted to cheer me on to not lose hope and encourage me to push harder, right? Thank you, Ms. Mimi.’
[No. I just wanted to tell you to not get ahead of yourself. You started your exercise two months ago. I understand how you may be feeling anxious, but there’s no need for you to be so impatient. You have just started to do what others have been doing for years…]
Nag, nag, nag! Mimi continued to lecture. Of course, Chi-Woo should’ve expected her to nag rather than encourage him.
‘Yes, yes. I understand. I said I got it.’ But Mimi still didn’t stop, so Chi-Woo tuned her out and walked away to the entrance where everyone was waiting. Ru Amuh, Ru Hiana, Eshnunna, and Hawa were all there. There were also several other heroes including Zelit. Chi-Woo joined the first group of four heroes and walked out of the entrance as the others cheered them on. It was the start of the first new expedition since coming to this fortress.
* * *
They marched. The guide, Eshnunna, and Ru Amuh walked at the front, Chi-Woo and Hawa stayed in the middle, and Ru Hiana fell back as the rearguard.
“Our first destination…”
“The shortest way to get to the place…” Ru Amuh and Eshnunna discussed the directions continuously, and Ru Hiana ardently surveyed her surroundings with wide eyes; her hand never left her sword. It was like she was prepared to pierce any enemy that popped her way. Chi-Woo acted similarly. Although he had joined the mission on the condition that he would only use his powers if a spiritual monster came out, he wasn’t here on a stroll. He didn’t let his guard down since anything could happen at any moment.
“We are heading to the checkpoint located at the border first. Lady Eshnunna said it would probably take us one day to get there…” Ru Amuh said, and as Chi-Woo listened, he imagined the best-case scenario of them finding the food supplies in the wide-open at their first destination and returning to the fortress right away. That, however, was nothing but a pipe dream. They did find a small checkpoint that was too small to be called a fortress around sunset, as Eshnunna had described. However, no matter how much they searched, they couldn’t find any food supplies, and the interior of the checkpoint was completely empty. It was the same for the second location they went to.
The next day, the group arrived at a place that looked like a secret base. Eshnunna explained that this used to be a secret hideout, created for troops a.s.signed to the checkpoint to hide in if they sighted enemies and couldn’t escape. She said there was quite a high possibility that a bit of food would be left in this place. Like she said, there were some goods, but they were all empty sacks with all their important content taken out.
“It seems…there were others who had stayed here. They must have left when the food ran out.” They didn’t know what happened to the people who had been at this place, but Eshnunna spoke disappointedly while looking at the sack pile. Just by the look of it, there could have been at least two weeks’ worth of food at this place. But they all turned away to resume their travel since there was nothing they could do. Even though they still had three places left to check, after coming up empty for the second time, worries that they wouldn’t be able to find anything began to stir up inside them.
The next day, the party arrived near the vicinity of their third destination around late afternoon. They still had some time before they arrived at the checkpoint, but Ru Amuh stopped marching and set up camp. He did it because it was getting dark soon, but also because they were going to a fortress this time. After dinner, Ru Amuh gathered everyone and said, “It’s a structure built for the same purpose as the fortress we are currently staying in.”
“Will there even be food there?’ Ru Hiana asked, sounding pretty negative, but Ru Amuh continued without concern.
“There’s a high possibility there will be. Lady Eshnunna said the same.”
“It will be strange for a fortress to not have food. But what if people had already finished the food like our previous destination…?”
“Well, the food isn’t at a spot where everyone would know of. They are hidden food supplies.”
“That’s true, but…” Ru Hiana couldn’t hide the worries that she was already feeling. Chi-Woo looked at them both back and forth and said in a low voice.
“It doesn’t matter. Let’s just go there first and search. It would be good if there is food, but even if there isn’t, we still have two spots to check.” Hawa nodded in agreement, and Chi-Woo added, “Even if our last two destinations are a bust, we can go to the other destinations we previously had in mind—”
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“No, we can’t, sir.”
“We don’t have to go there…”
Eshnunna suddenly fell silent. She and Chi-Woo simultaneously turned around. Hawa glanced at Eshnunna and looked up at Mount Evalaya. “That’s not the only path.”
Eshnunna slightly narrowed her eyes before regaining her composure. “Ms. Hawa, what do you mean?”
“I’m saying that the path you pointed out might be dangerous.”
A monotonous voice and an empty voice clashed against each other. Eshnunna immediately folded the map and turned around, while Hawa crossed her arms and looked up. The woman and the girl met each other’s eyes.
Hawa was the first one to break the silence. “The path you pointed out is the only one in the area. It may be safe for those coming down from the fortress, but it’s dangerous for those going up from the bottom.” Hawa continued, “If there are mutants, they might be scattered along this path, and even if they aren’t there, we’ll definitely be exposed to unknown threats.”
Hawa had a point. Her concerns were also applicable to the fortress they were currently residing in. If an enemy was to invade, they would try to get in through the stone bridge that led to the entrance first. Eshnunna was also aware of this threat, but she let out a fake laugh.
“Are you suggesting we climb this steep cliff without using a path?”
“Have you ever thought that there might be another path?”
“A different path?”
“Of course. It’s a canyon between a mountain range. I’m more amazed that you don’t think there’s a different path.”
“There’s no way our kingdom could have missed such a path. And even if there’s a different path, it would be extremely dangerous.”
“Even though it’s not as safe as a human-built path, it would be less dangerous than meeting monsters.”
Eshnunna’s objections were well thought out, but Hawa made just as much sense with her argument. Eshnunna took a deep breath and slowly exhaled. “You speak as if you’ve climbed this mountain a couple times.”
“I have. When I was a kid, I made several round trips to scout the area. About seven times, I think.”
“And by the way, I wasn’t caught even once.”
Chi-Woo clicked his tongue at Hawa’s speaking skills. Even though she didn’t openly show her hostility, her words must have bruised Eshnunna’s pride. The Ru siblings looked startled by their tense conversation. Chi-Woo, who was the only one that knew that the Shahnaz tribe and the Salem Kingdom had been sworn enemies for generations, smiled bitterly.
“Since you’ve been here before, you must know the path very well.” Ru Amuh quickly intervened, sensing the tension building between the two. “If we can enter through a hidden path, it would be safer. If it’s alright with you, would you be able to guide us through that path?”
Hawa replied, “I don’t mind.”
“Is there anything we should prepare?”
“No. Even though it’s a hidden path, it’s not that perilous to climb. Even an eight-year-old can climb it if they want to.”
“Haha. You’re joking.”
“No, I’m not joking. I first climbed this mountain when I was eight.”
That put an awkward look on Ru Amuh’s face, but the matter was decided. They would enter the fortress through the hidden path rather than the standard path, and naturally, Hawa would be taking the lead. Chi-Woo looked at Eshnunna and mouthed, ‘Are you all right?’
“…I know. You don’t need to worry.” Eshnunna spoke with a slightly lower voice than normal and calmly fell back to the center to stand next to Chi-Woo. After a while, the exploration team gradually disappeared into the fog surrounding Mount Evalaya.
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