Yongno asked, “Is it bad to quickly gather internal energy?”

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“No, it isn't,” replied Mari.
She continued, “But please note that the user's control ability affects the maximum value of Internal Energy.”

“Control ability?”

Nodding at his doubtful voice, Mari replied, “Yeah, in other words, by circulating and making use of your internal energy, it accumulates internal arts but not forever.
At some point, there is this 'wall' where it doesn’t increase anymore.
It may be due to how you manage the cultivation technique or a matter of your game level.”

To put it simply, performing a cultivation technique for a long time does not guarantee results, but if the users constantly developed internal arts as fast as Yongno, they could quickly cultivate a thousand years of mind, spirit, and qi.

Yongno replied, “Interesting, then what is my limit?”

“I don’t know the rank of your cultivation technique and the limit of your control ability, but I guess the restrictions of your game level come first.
In your case, Oppa, you didn't even clear Test Level 1, so you won't go above 50 points.
The limit of 50 points doesn't only apply to your Spiritual Power but also to other stats such as Energy and HP.
It won't go past the allowed limit until you pass the test.”

Yongno recalled that he had earned 20 points when his middle dantian was opened by Diving.
Now that he had gotten an extra point, he should have a total of 21 points of Internal Energy. 

“Then, now I can rack up 29 points by using the cultivation technique,” said Yongno.

Mari responded, “Unfortunately, you’re wrong.
When you first opened the stats window, you would have seen that all users started off with 20 Spiritual Power. You won’t be able to use it since its type is unidentified, but you still have those 20 points anyway, and now that you have attained 41 points out of the 50 points limit, you only can gain another 9 points.”

“That's quite rigid.
So, how do I use the unidentified type of Spiritual Power?”

“When you pass this basic test and become a Level 2 user, you'll be able to perceive its mana, and that's when you get to decide the type.
You can choose among internal arts, chakra, or magic.”

Yongno replied, “Hmm, sounds interesting, but it's a little tricky.”


He wondered, “According to your explanation, no matter how hard I cultivate Gold Core Immortal Technique, I can't increase my Internal Energy by more than 9 points.
Am I getting it wrong?”

“Are you gonna keep hanging in there?” asked Mari, looking perplexed. Aren’t you gonna go out and level up?

However, Yongno stealthily moved into the water, then opened the stats window to check his status.
While they shared those conversations, Yongno's Stamina and Internal Energy has fully recovered. 

“Fine, should we go now?” said Yongno.

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Mari complained, “How far are you trying to go…? Geez, never mind! Do whatever you want.”

As if she felt exhausted, Mari sighed and gently came up to the surface.
Yongno kicked the rock close to the water to push off, expecting Mari to follow him. 


He sliced through the water and moved forward. 


Yongno’s eyes opened with no signs of surprise, confusion, or exhaustion.
His pupils looked fresh as if he closed and opened his eyes for about ten seconds, but it had actually been twenty-four hours since Yongno accessed D.I.O.
As soon as he woke up, he checked the time.

“Twenty minutes past ten? Does that mean it's been less than ten minutes since I logged in…? No way, it doesn't make sense.
I must check the date, not the time.”

Yongno took out his phone and checked the date.

“Eh? It's only been a day? Unbelievable! I've been staying there for days!”

Precisely, he was there for six days.
The time in D.I.O went exactly six times faster than that in real life, but Mari only explained to him that time passed more slowly in D.I.O.
Therefore, Yongno was amazed at the difference in the flow of time.

“Wow! This would be awesome for students preparing for college.
They could buy so much time there! Well, I'll get worn out if I run the game too often, but…
Eh, worn out?”

Babbling in excitement, Yongno realized that he didn’t feel exhausted at all.
It wasn’t so surprising since spending six days in D.I.O was equivalent to spending a day in real life.
A day was either short or long, so getting through a day of no sleep wouldn’t cause him to feel too tired to death, but…

Yongno shouted, “Even though I pulled an all-nighter, I don’t feel sleepy at all.
Instead, I feel so refreshed?!”

As if he had had a good night's sleep, Yongno felt like he was given a new life.
All he did was sit down and spend twenty-four hours playing a game, but Yongno’s mind had never been so clear and bright as today, which was both fascinating and odd.

He checked himself in the mirror to see if there were any dark circles under his eyes, but Yongno had such a healthy-looking complexion today.

“Geez, this is so weird….”

The moment he stood up and took off the earphones, Yongno came to a halt.
The computer was still turned on, and he was holding the earphones in his hand.
Standing absentmindedly for a second, he murmured, “Hmm…
this doesn't make sense at all.”

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Yongno just played a virtual reality game, a computer-generated simulation.
Just by sitting down in front of the computer and wearing the earphones, he was able to log into the virtual world and start playing the game. 

For goodness’ sake, how does it make sense? Could it be described scientifically or physically? Yongno shook his head no.
What he just experienced was inexplicable, but evidence spoke louder than theoretical thinking.
He had just returned from the virtual world, which was an undeniable real experience.

Yongno grumbled, “But I can't help feeling absurd.
How can I access the game just using this earphone, and not by going into a capsule or wearing a helmet or even plugging something in the head like that in the Matrix?”

Yongno got up from his seat.
He was feeling very well, but his stomach was growling in hunger, so he should grab something to eat unless he wanted to get dizzy.

“Let's have some instant food~ A three-minute meal~ I love three-minute meal~”

Humming, Yongno opened the fridge door packed with all kinds of instant foods inside. 

“Should I have some meatballs and hamburg steak today? I've been starving for a day, so let’s have two fried eggs on the side~”

He poured the hamburg steak and meatballs into one dish, then put the plate in the microwave.
Meanwhile, he prepared a bowl of rice, then made two fried eggs, and put them on top of the rice. 

“Let's see.
I don't have many things to do for a while, so it's good to just play D.I.O, right? Well, money's not an issue for me right now, so I can temporarily just stay at home.
Wow! That's why they say it's good to be free.”

Yongno was a senior in high school, but thankfully it was the end of November now––the college scholastic ability test was over. 

“Hahaha, now I can just enjoy this freedom without responsibility.”

After taking out another dish, Yongno moved the rice, hamburg steak, and meatballs to it, then he added fried eggs over them.
Next, he put a spoon on top of it and sat in front of the computer.
He looked like a perfect homebody teenage boy.

“Let's see.
I found the website!”

Yongno was surprised to find the website of D.I.O.
There was no particular reason behind it, but he thought that it wouldn’t exist in real life. Doesn't it belong to a different online game? But after reading the introductory page, Yongno admitted that he found the right one. 

“It has a lot of background stories and even an online library.”

Looking through the information, he discovered the martial powers, cultivation methods, and above all, the Gold Core Immortal Technique of the Taoist culture that he learned in the virtual world.
However, only the basic theories were available for free; additional information required payment for viewing.

“I guess it isn't an in-game purchase, but it doesn't make sense to have it in a beta game either.”

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Yongno couldn’t see any advanced-level martial power books that he was looking for, but he found a few books opened to the public such as those in the 'Basic Theory' section: 'Basic Magic System,' 'Basic Martial Power System,' 'Bringing Back the Other World,' 'Chakra 101,' etc.

“There are all kinds of things here,” he murmured.

Among those books, Yongno chose the 'Basic Martial Power System' and took a look over it.
The book wrote about the basic knowledge of martial arts, the acupoint of the circulating life force, the characteristics of each acupoint, and so on.

“Ah, I see.
That's why…”

Smiling in joy, Yongno opened a notebook and started to take notes.
Nothing looked special about this young man learning new things from the online resources, but in fact, it was the beginning of an unexpected change in Murim's thousand-year of martial arts studies.

* * *

“It's the ocean~!!”

“At last, we're here…”

In front of the big blue horizon, Yongno spread his arms wide; Mari was behind him in a frustrated pose.

Yongno said, “I think we've gone down about 200 kilometers.”

“Yeah, sir, you're freaking awesome.”

To be specific, Yongno moved almost 240 kilometers by water.
Thinking about the distance between Seoul and Busan, which was 314 kilometers apart, Yongno had swum an impossible amount of space through the water.
If swimming 240 kilometers was possible in the first place, wasn’t it okay to just jump into the Haeundae Beach and cross the sea to arrive at Jeju-do? 

Yongno glided through the river, and not the ocean, so sometimes he came out of the water to take a break.
Still, he was going beyond human limits; it only took him about twenty hours to swim all the way down here even when he did something else intermittently throughout his journey. 

Susie Maroney, a world record holder for the longest distance swimming in the open sea, took approximately forty hours to cross from Mexico to Cuba, 197 kilometers apart.
Taking it into consideration, what Yongno did was also beyond common sense. 

“Geez, impossible things can happen here, which means this is obviously a game and not a real world.
If I swam this way in real life, I would have appeared on TV shows and become a Guinness World Record holder,” exclaimed Yongno.

While swimming down to the ocean, Yongno earned 15 Stamina points, clocking a total of 43 points now.
He even increased his Strength by 5 points, resulting in a total of 25 points.
Although, it took a little longer than he expected…

/Your Spiritual Power (Type: Internal Arts) has increased by 1 point!/

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“It finally went up!” shouted Yongno.
He was still performing Gold Core Immortal Technique. 

At first, it discontinued from time to time when Yongno was insensitive to it, but as he became more accustomed to it, Yongno was able to perform the technique with ease while swimming, being occupied elsewhere, and even consuming his Internal Energy by doing Body Strengthening or Diving.
And by performing the Gold Core Immortal Technique, the maximum value of his Internal Energy kept increasing. 

/Your Spiritual Power has reached the maximum limit.
It cannot be increased further! Level up or clear a special mission to increase the maximum value!/

“I have reached 50 points, but compared to the rapid increase in the beginning, it took quite a long time, right?” asked Yongno.

Mari replied, “That's because the middle dantian had just been activated.
Plus, although the Gold Core Immortal Technique is absolutely safe, stable, and has a strong output, it’s considerably slow in accumulating energies.”

Unlike other cultivation methods, the Gold Core Immortal Technique created a marble of energy within our body similar to magical beasts or mythological animals.
By forming a Gold Core, a kind of a spiritual pellet in the dantian, it would be completely free from Qi Deviation, which was a dangerously unstable state of internal energy.

Plus, unlike from the dantian where we usually accumulate our internal energy, the Gold Core could endure the violent flow of the internal force, so it was good to use an attack that involved a high output without much pressure, like the ‘lethal blow’.
After the huge release, the internal energy would definitely run short, but that was another problem.
When aiming at a short-term battle, it was quite an attractive cultivation technique.

“Oh, but I have a question,” said Yongno.

“What is it?”

“Is it possible to transfer points between stats such as lowering Spiritual Power and raising Mana Gathering?”

Mari replied, “Of course not.
Can you make yourself dumb to improve your athletic skills? No, right?” Mari replied bewilderedly.

Yongno shrugged, “Just in case, since this is a game.”

“Pfft, but I get what you're thinking about.
Since you can't increase your Spiritual Power as it has reached the 50 points limit, you want to transfer points between stats, right? That ridiculous option doesn't exist here, so give up and go out for a level-up…
What are you doing?”

Mari stared at Yongno.
He was absentmindedly sitting in the lotus position on the rock.
It was a way to control and circulate his internal energy, but why was he doing that when the Gold Core Immortal Technique was the cultivation method that could move the qi naturally in any situation?

However, Yongno just took a deep breath and ignored her.


Breathing in and out, Yongno perceived the existence of qi.
He felt the concentration of internal energy condensed near the pit of his stomach.
Then, Yongno began to circulate the qi through the acupoints that he already had in mind.

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