The nearby patrons glared at Roy in irritation. Realizing what he had done, he quickly apologized. “Sorry, sorry.”
Roy picked up his chair and sat down before once again looking at the status screen, still unable to believe it was real. “How is this possible? You even beat the world record!”
Jason waved his hand, dispersing the screen to make sure no one else would see it. He grinned victoriously. “Looks like I won the bet.”
“Yeah, but didn’t you say you just entered the tower? How are you so skilled?” Roy was unconcerned about losing the bet. He couldn’t keep his mind from replaying the status screen.
Jason, unable to tell the truth, just rolled his eyes. “Didn’t I tell you I’m the most talented person on earth? Now do you believe me?”
Roy had previously thought Jason was arrogant to the extreme, but it looked like he really was the most talented person in the world. Roy felt that if he worked together with someone like Jason, saving humanity might just be possible. Suddenly, he thought of his parents. His face grew dark as he whispered. “Be careful of the dark guilds.”
Seeing the serious look on Roy’s face, Jason was confused. Why would a fifteen year old boy who just entered the tower warn him of the dark guilds? He asked. “How much do you know about them?”
Roy clenched his hands. “Enough to know not to mess with them.”
Jason saw that Roy’s eyes had turned slightly red. Does he have a history with them? Jason thought he knew about Roy, but it looked like he was wrong. Roy must have hidden his past deeply by the time they met.
For a time silence fell over their table. Roy thought back to the status screen Jason showed him. He was still uncertain how you could get so far without using any abilities and having fifteen to all stats. Was it really possible? Roy asked uncertainly. “So is there some trick to the challenges?”
“Unfortunately, no.” Jason shook his head. He thought for a moment before raising three fingers. “Have you heard of the three exalted techniques?”
“The three exalted techniques?” Roy tilted his head. “Are they abilities?”
Jason shook his head. “No. They were possible to use before the towers arrived.”
“Really? Are they that powerful?” Roy was doubtful. He knew how magical and fantastical the tower was.
“Incredibly powerful.” Jason leaned back in his chair as he began to explain. “It is possible to reach the seventh challenge without learning these techniques by pushing the human body to the limits. Dodging, parrying, deflecting, attacking weaknesses, and positioning. These are all difficult to master, but they’re much easier to learn than the three exalted techniques.”
“Oh!” Roy gasped. “I get it. That orc on the third challenge used a heavy axe and had higher strength than me. I have to deflect his weapon instead of challenging it head on.”
“That’s one way. Parrying isn’t an option, but dodging is.” Jason smiled. Sure enough, Roy is a combat genius. I wonder how far he’ll go with me teaching him? It gave Jason the shivers.
“So if I can master those techniques, then I can beat the seventh challenge, huh?” Roy’s eyes glittered at the thought of it. He focused back on Jason. “So what’s the three exalted techniques? Can they beat all the challenges? Oh, how many challenges are there, anyway?”
“Slow down.” Jason waved his hand. “One question at a time.”
“Oh, sorry.” Roy forced himself to calm down, but his sparkling eyes said otherwise.
Jason shook his head. “There are fifteen challenges. The three exalted techniques can’t beat the last one, they can only get you to it.”
“Is it that hard?” Roy gulped. If even Jason, the most talented person in the world couldn’t beat it, did he have a chance?
Jason’s eyes narrowed. “You fight yourself.”
“Yourself?” Roy didn’t expect this. He was thinking he would have to fight a dragon.
Jason sighed heavily as he thought back to his recent defeat. “Right. You have to beat yourself, an exact copy to be exact. The copy has all of your techniques and combat experience.”
Roy rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Wouldn’t that result in a draw then?”
“Then how do you beat it? Isn’t it impossible?” Roy frowned. Was the colosseum so ruthless in that it wouldn’t let anybody win?
Jason shook his head. “No, it’s possible. There’s only one way: to surpass yourself.”
Roy fell silent for a moment before his frown deepened. “But you said that the only way to reach the fifteenth floor is to master the human body and learn the three exalted techniques. How is it possible to surpass perfection?”
“That’s why I’m stuck.” Jason sighed again. He had tried hundreds of times, maybe even thousands. He had lost count long ago.
Roy fell back in his chair, defeated. “Then isn’t it impossible?”
“No.” Jason shook his head. “I know someone who beat it.”
Roy’s eyes lit up. “Really? Where are they? Why doesn’t the world know about them?”
Jason looked at Roy briefly before turning away. “They died.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.” Roy fell silent. Once again, a blanket of silence covered their table. Once again, Roy was the one to change the subject. “You still haven’t explained the three exalted techniques.”
“Oh, I almost forgot.” Jason crossed his arms. “These techniques can only be learned in one order. The first is called the effortless body, the second the heavenly eye, and the third is foresight.”
“Effortless body, heavenly eye, and foresight?” Roy repeated under his breath.
“Effortless body means to master your body. To feel the wind, to hear all sounds, to see everything within your field of vision, as well as using the least amount of strength to perform an action.”
“So dodging within the narrowest margin?” Roy asked.
“Exactly.” Jason nodded. “The heavenly eye is the next technique. It means to form an image of your surroundings in your mind. To remember the position of every rock, every monster, every arrow, etc. Once you master this technique, you can never be sneaked up on.”
“Is that really within human limits?” Roy asked with doubtful eyes.
“Yes. Many martial artists through the centuries have mastered this technique, even before the tower arrived.” Jason explained. “Though their number was much lower than now, where battle is around every corner.”
“Hmm. The first two sound amazing already. What’s the last technique?”
“Foresight - that is to anticipate the future and react before it happens.” Jason grinned. Heaven only knows how long it took for him to master this technique.
“Wow.” Roy was beginning to feel overwhelmed. “There’s so much to learn.”
The waiter came over with the bill, which Jason and Roy then paid for. Standing up to leave, Jason patted Roy’s shoulder. “Don’t worry. Just take one step at a time. You’ve just entered the tower yet you already beat the second challenge. You can definitely reach my level.”
“Yeah! I’ll work hard.” Roy was getting pumped up. “So what now?”
“Since you’re a natural-born, you don’t need any abilities for now, right?” Jason asked as they left the restaurant.
“No way, I already have so much. I don’t know what to focus on.” Roy sighed exaggeratedly.
“Tch.” Jason clicked his tongue enviously. Damn kid doesn’t know how lucky he is. Jason led Roy to the market district. “First, I’ll buy myself some heritage armor and some abilities, and then…”
“We go to the first floor!”
Roy nearly tripped. He just remembered that he hadn’t even passed the first floor. He repeated a mantra in his head. Baby steps, Baby steps.