“You’re definitely not a normal person. I didn’t have a chance to see how you managed to use your thick skull to figure out a way past the extremely complicated and difficult first test, but looking at how easily you took care of the Battle Golem personally created by Eckheart…”
The flying book spoke with its pages fluttering about as though it were alive.
“You might be good enough to be a mid-grade Guild Master or a general of a small nation, right?”
It wasn’t the first time that he had seen a familiar. He had received several familiars from his friends in the past, but whether it be plant or animal, anything he tried to raise all died quickly in his hands without exception.
“What are you?”
Sungchul asked the book.
The large book stopped its movements, and Sungchul nodded impassively.
“I am Bertelgia. A living book, as you can see. I have ended up as your familiar. Not that I wanted to be.”
She spoke like a tsundere, but her attitude wasn’t what mattered to Sungchul.
“What are you capable of?”
This was the only question that mattered.
Bertelgia was struck dumb for a moment, before speaking again in a depressed voice.
“It’s very rude how you are treating me like a tool, but seeing as I have no personal desire to get close to you either, I’ll accept your behavior. As you can see, I am a living book.”
Bertelgia began opening her pages on her own accord, revealing the contents written within to Sungchul. Her pages contained beautifully written formulas and descriptions, complete with illustrations, all for the purpose of aiding the process of Alchemic creation.
“Contained within me is all of the knowledge left behind by Eckheart, the self-proclaimed Eighth Hero. Eckheart wasn’t a very smart guy, so the knowledge isn’t all that great, but…Hey! Don’t touch!”
At this point, Sungchul began to forcefully flip through the pages.
“If you want to see something, you can just tell me! I’ll find it and show it to you!”
Bertelgia struggled desperately, trying with all her might to break free of his grasp.
Sungchul let go of her. Bertelgia, finally freed from his monstrous strength, shot up to the ceiling before floating back down to where she had been before.
“Yes. Just ask away. Eckheart was a mediocre Alchemist, but he also had some clever tricks.”
Sungchul gazed off into the distance, before staring sharply at the book.
“Can you undo the Curse of Extinction?”
At the mere mention of the curse, a memory he had been suppressing bubbled up in his mind. Bertelgia twirled from left to right.
“Oh? That? That guy also tried solving it, but he didn’t succeed.”
He wasn’t disappointed because he hadn’t had any expectation in the first place. He bent down to pick up the other book from the floor.
[Tome of the Creationist]
Type: Class Transfer (Compact)
Effect: Legendary Class Creationist Acquisition
Note: My beloved daughter shall lead you to the True Path of Wisdom.
“What is this?”
Creationist: a legendary grade class. It was a class that Sungchul, who was steeped deep in the lore and knowledge of Other World, had never heard of before. Not only that, but the note was also odd. It was unreasonable to request finding the daughter of someone who lived at least a few thousand years ago.
It wasn’t long before Bertelgia began to speak again.
“Can’t you read? That is the Tome of the Creationist.”
“And where is Eckheart’s daughter? Won’t she be dead by now?”
“Who died? She’s right here.”
Bertelgia put herself on display like some kind of bird as she flapped her pages. Sungchul stopped breathing and focused his sharp senses to search through his surroundings, but he couldn’t perceive any other presence around him.
“Where is ‘here’?”
After Sungchul asked for clarification, Bertelgia shoved her paper-packed body towards him and said as she sighed.
“Really, you can’t even see who is right in front of you…I’ll reintroduce myself then. I am Bertelgia: the daughter of the self-proclaimed Eighth Hero, Eckheart. I am your familiar who will be guiding you on the path of becoming the Creationist.”
He had gained 15 Intuition, a tome for a never-before-seen class, and a familiar who claimed to be the daughter of Eckheart. He would have to wait and see how useful the Tome of the Creationist or Bertelgia would be; nevertheless, he had gained a lot of unexpected things.
“Hello? Mr. Muscle-head? Can you hear me?”
Sungchul smirked as Bertelgia let out her sharp words.
Night had already fallen by the time he reached the Plaza. Sungchul headed towards a clearing near the training center where the Preselected were staying. Everyone had followed after Yuhoon and gone to sleep. Sunghae appeared to be sleeping, her arms wrapped around the staff, but on closer inspection, she was actually cautiously looking over in his direction with her barely opened eyes.
Sungchul headed towards his own spot farther away from the main group. An appreciated guest was waiting at Sungchul’s sleeping space which was made from the clothes of those who died.
It was the Sky Squirrel that had been following Krill Regall. Like before, there was a pouch with a message tied to the tiny paws of the Sky Squirrel. He fed the creature some bread crumbs before retrieving the message.
[1. More bribes needed. Urgent.]
[2. Rules of the next Rank Match decided. Pac-Man Rules / Tam Tam]
[3. Requested standard for distribution of rewards: 1st – 100% / 2nd – 80% / 3rd – 60% / 4th – 40%]
[P.S. Without additional bribes, I might not be able to send out this guy anymore.]
After grinding the note into powder with his fingers, he leaned against a training dummy and began to contemplate.
‘It’s Pac-Man rules, with a Tam Tam included to boot.’
It was the worst combination of the most difficult rule with the worst of the monsters. Pac-Man rules were one of the many different types of Rank Matches that distributed scores based on the number of people who managed to survive against a powerful creature within the time limit. It might be argued that other rulesets were designed to allow the survivors to fight back; Pac-Man rules, in theory, offered no such opportunity. They released a monster that even a mid-grade fighter, let alone newbies, would not stand a chance against alone. The only way to stay alive against such a monster was to keep away from it until it managed to eat its fill.
The creature, Tam Tam, was one of the weakest monsters that the Summoning Palace kept. It was also one of the more popular monsters to be hunted by the strong. However, there was a valid reason that this monster was called the bane of all newbies. While other monsters hunted humans solely to serve as food, the Tam Tam would play with its meal. The number of casualties it caused during the rounds had never once fallen below that of the other monsters.
‘Are the Preselected within the Blanche Plaza lacking? I thought the Order of the Iron Blood Knights was a big name around here, but maybe they still hadn’t completely recovered from the Demon Army’s second invasion?’
Blanche Plaza was not the only Plaza to have the ‘Preselected’.
All the other Plazas had Preselecteds backed by major factions as well.
Within the Plaza itself, the Preselected were given special treatment, but this problem extended to the overall Summoning Palace as a whole. In other words, there was a difference in treatment between different groups of Preselected.
The Preselected backed by the strongest faction would have relatively comfortable and safer trials in the Palace, whereas the Plazas not backed by the strongest were forced to face the more difficult and dangerous ones. The Blanche Plaza had received the trial that was rumored to be the most difficult of them all; the Tam Tam.
Sungchul vividly recalled how violently that demonic giant monkey toyed with people before it killed them. His companions, who had numbered over 500, were reduced to below 50 in just one match. The Plaza, soaked completely in blood, was a scene he could recall vividly even to this day. This might have been why Krill had emphasized his need for additional bribes. He knew that the Tam Tam would be in the next match and had no expectations that Sungchul would survive.
Sungchul pulled out a rose-tinted ruby and placed it into the Sky Squirrel’s pouch, then petted the squirrel’s head with a bent finger.
The Sky Squirrel disappeared into the night sky.
Sungchul closed his eyes and began planning, while the Preselected continued to sleep.
‘The difference in rewards between ranks is larger than I had expected.’
According to Kill’s information, the highest-ranking Plaza would earn more than twice the reward of the lowest-ranking Plaza. This means that, within the last ranking Plaza, there was a limit to how much an individual could earn as the pool of rewards were effectively 40% of what the first rank’s total rewards were. This difference would prove to be critical. Being in a lower-ranked Plaza would inevitably lead to earning relatively fewer Palace Tokens.
There was also another problem, which was the Tam Tam’s presence. Leaving it alone would not only guarantee Blanche Plaza’s continual last place, but would also make the following Death Match rules all the more difficult for them. There was only one way to avoid this disaster; he would need to get rid of the Tam Tam.
He now needed to find a way to kill it without being discovered. The Pac-Man match would inevitably draw a crowd of skilled onlookers that would come to enjoy the senseless violence and chaos within the Summoning Palace. If he revealed his strength at that time, he would immediately draw their attention and cause all activities within the Summoning Palace to come to an end and lead to various nations and guilds sending in armies to try and kill him. There was no other way to solve it; Sungchul looked back at Sunghae, who was cautiously watching him through the slit of her eyes with an anxiously beating heart.
It wasn’t like there was a strict standard or anything, but a large, demonic creature would usually be classified as a Monster. To be more exact, large, demonic creatures that had low intelligence would be classified as Monsters. Tam Tams were smarter than most Monsters, but their level of intelligence was still comparable to wild beasts, hence their classification.
The Tam Tam was a twelve-meter tall, massive primate. It could run quickly, use its extended arms cooperatively with its legs, and like a human, was able to freely manipulate objects with its hands. Its strength was lacking in comparison to other monsters, but it could still split a man in half with just its spear-like teeth. This did mean, however, that it wasn’t a completely impossible threat for the newbies to face.
It was certainly impossible for a newly arrived Summoned to defeat it, but there were those who became much stronger after surviving the first Rank Match, and many had begun to push themselves to train or explore the forest to strengthen themselves after coming to accept their grim realities.
Of course, the probability of winning was realistically stuck at a permanent zero, but Sungchul planned on raising the chances by a significant margin.
‘I don’t need that many. But I need to gather help. If I can gather those who can cause real damage to Tam Tam and have them bring it down, I can use the Explosion Scroll to kill the Tam Tam without raising suspicion.’
The Preselected were the ideal candidates for this purpose, but most of them had already acquired the Divine Elixir of Escape. They couldn’t be counted on for his plan. They would secure their own survival by slathering on the contents of the Elixir and going to hide in a corner.
Fortunately, there were also a few among them who haven’t received the Divine Elixir of Escape. Ahram and Sunghae were a prime example of this. There were four such people in total, including that pair, who hadn’t gotten the Elixir. Sungchul approached the one he was already acquainted with: Sunghae.
“…What do you want from me? I believe I’ve kept my promise, haven’t I?”
She quickly drew the staff behind her as she spoke out nervously. Her voice caught the attention of two nameless Preselected men who moved closer to her from the side. It appeared as though someone was worried that Sungchul would attack her to take back the Staff and had prepared a few bodyguards in advance. However, this kind of petty planning meant nothing to Sungchul.
“I didn’t come here to take away the staff. I’m just here to give you a warning.”
Sungchul pointed to above his head, and her tension dropped by a small bit.
“Didn’t your Guide tell you what the upcoming Rank Match would be?”
“I’ve heard of it. Pac-Man? He said it would be Pac-Man Rules.”
“You know which monster is going to be in this Pac-Man game, right?”
“Mmm, maybe I do…”
“Tam Tam? That’s a funny name.”
“It’s a funny name, but what it does is anything but funny. Do you have an item that can replace the Divine Elixir?”
Sunghae pulled out Moonlight and spoke in a trembling voice.
“Isn’t this enough?”
Sungchul looked at the staff with emotionless eyes and shook his head.
“That kind of thing can’t guarantee your life.”
Sungchul turned around. With his broad back to the group, his deep voice could be heard,
“If you want to live, come find me in the forest. Come with anyone that doesn’t have an Elixir.”
On the first day they were Summoned, no one could have predicted that this would have happened; that the most destitute and unremarkable looking man among the twenty-five Preselected would one day speak down to the most beautiful woman and give her orders. But one week after arrival, everything had changed.
Sungchul expressionlessly watched as three Preselected cautiously entered the forest.
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