It was Sungchul’s broad objective to first read the Scripture of Calamity and then embark Aquiroa’s ship, Procrustes. He would have to fill in the finer details of the plan as he went along, but no matter the circumstance, reading the scripture took priority. If he were to meet Aquiroa, a battle couldn’t be avoided, and if the Tower of Recluse got locked down due to this, there would be nothing he as Sungchul could do about it because like the Summoning Palace, this place was under the direct protection of the gods.
“I should consider how to enter that tower first.”
Sungchul glared at the picturesque gray colored tower rising up from the far end of the serene rippleless lake as he walked toward it. A wooden suspension bridge that led to the entrance of the village soon appeared, and next to it was a stable. Next to the stable, the imposing Baron was resting with its wings unfurled beside the monk’s cart.
Bertegia greeted it first, but Baron didn’t acknowledge her in any way. Sungchul read the message posted at the entrance of the bridge.
[Toporo’s Village Head of compassion and affection]
Bertelgia shook her body from inside her pocket after reading the nameplate.
“It looks like there are a lot of nice people living here?”
Sungchul didn’t respond. It was because it was near impossible to find a truly kind person among people who referred to themselves as kind. Sungchul knew this from his own experiences.
In fact, after having crossed the bridge, he was met with a wooden fence reinforced with rusted nails and spears that obstructed his way.
“What is your purpose here?”
A burly young man that seemed to be a militiaman appeared from behind the wooden fence.
‘Is it because of me?’
Sungchul’s question was answered by the warnings posted all across the fence.
[ No Entry to Outsiders – Especially Refugees! ]
[ Refugees can fuck off to your own lands. ]
[ Final Moments of a Thief -> ]
At the end of the arrow indicated on the final post was a corpse of a young man that had been beaten to death and left to rot and be eaten by swarming flies and squirming maggots.
“Are you a refugee? Hm?”
The young man with a steel helmet bared his teeth as he spoke threateningly. Sungchul’s appearance was pathetic enough in his eyes to be mistaken as a refugee.
“I’m not a refugee, though.”
As Sungchul began to contemplate on how to resolve this situation when another person popped out from behind the wooden fence. It was a short but stocky man with thick brows.
“What are you doing with a Summoned!”
The man wore an armband to distinguish himself from the others and appeared to be of high status.
“Eh? A Summoned?”
“Can’t you tell by his attire? Only Summoned would wear such camouflage pants.”
The man scolded the young man for a while before stepping up to Sungchul.
His big bright eyes scanned Sungchul up and down for a while before he chose to speak again.
“Are you a Summoned?”
“Do you have business in the Tower of Recluse?”
When Sungchul nodded again, the man had the young man step back and let him inside the village.
“The detailed announcement is posted in the village plaza, so check there.”
Sungchul nodded once again before entering the fence. He could hear the man’s voice from his back after passing by.
“It would be best for you to avoid doing anything unnecessary. Things are already a mess as they are.”
Sungchul stopped his steps and turned around to ask.
“There are several things, but I would appreciate it if you didn’t covet other people’s properties as lives could be lost for a single apple or coin.”
The man turned his gaze toward the rotting corpse beneath the fence. It was a rough indication of the tension between the village people and the refugees.
‘There’s bound to be problems with that many refugees regardless of how generous or affectionate the village head might be.’
Sungchul entered the village keeping the man’s warning in mind.
The atmosphere of the village was hostile, and everyone that ran into Sungchul openly displayed their wariness. Sungchul’s pauper appearance didn’t help any either.
Tattered coat, worn-out jeans, and well-worn military boots. Sungchul’s attire was no different than the average vagrant. Bertelgia noticed this problem and warned him as such.
“ How about taking this opportunity to change your clothes? There’s plenty of refined and great looking clothes, or just wear full-body armor. Maybe a full body armor. Something like a full body armor!”
“I won’t wear such things.”
“I understand that you have taste, but it might leave a better impression on the people here if you take the step to wear such clothes.”
Sungchul began to walk faster in order to quiet Bertelgia’s nagging, and once he crossed through the village, he could see the path to the Tower of Recluse. The tower itself was on an island at the center of a lake, but the way to the tower could not be seen from land. There was also no bridge, dock or ferry that was so commonly seen, but if you took a closer look, there was a path. A series of stepping stones hidden just beneath the surface of the clear mirror-like rippleless lake. The people of the tower called these stones the Miracle Bridge or the Water Strider Bridge. Sungchul headed toward the small island where the tower was located, walking atop this bridge that lied at a depth that would only wet the soles of his boots.
There were hermits donned with grey robes guarding the entrance of the tower. The tower as seen through the Eye of Truth was covered and overlapped very thickly with potent defensive barriers..
‘As expected of the Tower of Recluse, it’s not to be underestimated.’
When Sungchul approached the entrance, the hermits stepped forward and engaged him.
“What is your purpose here?”
Their voice was courteous, but their eyes that could be faintly seen beneath their hoods held deep suspicion. Sungchul was wholly aware of the messy state of affairs at the current moment and decided not to stir the pot any further. He pulled out the excuse he had prepared beforehand.
“I have come to visit Hermit Kha’nes for personal reasons.”
Surprise passed across each of the hermits’ eyes.
“The lady is currently out on a mission from the Holy Hermit Porpyrius.”
A weak groan escaped Sungchul’s lips.
‘Is she not back yet? That girl. It’s been quite a while since we met in the Demon Realm Battlefront, but now that I think about it, she was a truant-type. Curious like a dragon as well.”
Kha’nes’ absence posed a great predicament. He felt the need to change his plans and threw out another question.
“When is the lady returning?”
“We cannot be sure, but I expect that she’ll only return after having wandered about to her satisfaction.”
“Mm… I had business in the tower.”
“We apologize, but we are in a state of emergency and cannot accept foreigners into the tower without cause. However, it looks like you’re a Summoned?”
One of the hermits looked more closely at Sungchul. Sungchul nodded, allowing him to continue speaking.
“It’s not that there’s no way for a Summoned. Well, it is limited to only the most intelligent among them, but we are seeking Summoned that might bring aid to the tower.”
“There will be a flyer at the village noticeboard. We have no more details regarding this matter, so it will be faster to read the flyer yourself.
He managed to obtain an unexpected information. Sungchul tried to leave after showing proper formality toward the hermits, but one of them called out to him.
“If you seek to stay a bit at the village, we’ll send the lady a message upon her return. Who should we refer to you as?”
The man’s intentions were good, but it was an awkward question for Sungchul. Sungchul who did not really have a response for him almost replied instinctively.
As Sungchul began to speak, Bertelgia shook her body violently. It seemed like she very much wanted to avoid what was about to happen. Thanks to her, he was able to think of something reasonable to say instead.
“Tell her that I’m the man that cooked her ramen.”
Sungchul revealed a faint smile toward the befuddled hermits before leaving this place.
Toporo Village was a small but abundant village that was aesthetically pleasing. The lake provided water and fish while the cool climate was appropriate for growing fruits. More than anything, it sat next to the Tower of Recluse which protected it from external invasions.
Sungchul followed the burbling stream that ran beside the village and looked toward the vast vineyards. The vineyard on the side of the village was safe, but the vineyard on the opposite side lay desolate as if ravaged by a herd of boars. Sungchul crossed the stepping stones again and entered deeper into the village. He passed by several houses before he managed to see the village plaza.
There were various shops set up in a rectangular shape, surrounding an intimidating bronze statue located in the center of the plaza of an unnamed hermit wearing a robe with his face veiled under the hood. There was colorful brickwork laid out at the center of the plaza as expected of a rich village to form a pattern that was pleasing to the eye on which countless people were bustling about.
A noticeboard was placed beneath the clock tower of this village plaza, and like always, there was a wanted poster posted on the most prominent spot showing a portrait of the Enemy of the World. Bertelgia who noticed this quietly spoke to Sungchul.
“Must be nice to be so popular.”
Sungchul looked at the wanted poster with indifference. It seemed to have been made a fairly long time ago as the young man depicted was in an extravagant uniform with rippling mass of muscles that looked entirely different from the current Sungchul. A note in the corner of the flyer said to show proper respects to this man even during his capture as he was once the Commander-in-Chief of the Empire.
‘Was this flyer posted 8 years ago?’
It appeared to have been made around the moment the name “Enemy of the World” started to make its rounds. Sungchul’s eyes fell away as he began to feel the futile nature of time. There were other flyers messily posted onto the board, but Sungchul soon found the one he was looking for.
[Attention! Recruiting Summoned!]
[1. Overview – It has been concluded that technology and abstraction are very well developed in the alternate world (Earth), so there will be active research and development carried out at the Tower of Recluse to utilize them. Henceforth, Summoned with world-class academic attainment are invited to come and share their knowledge.]
[2. Qualification – Summoned with comparable academic backgrounds of Other World’s master’s degree or doctorate. (Caution: a field of study relating to what is referred to as Liberal Arts will not qualify)]
[3. Remuneration – 10 silver coin minimum to 1 gold coin based on contribution]
[Side note – There will be a Selection Exam so those that don’t qualify, do not apply]
Sungchul who saw the notice felt lost. He was not a master nor a doctorate during his time in the real world, and to make matters worse, he had taken liberal arts. Rounded up, it had been about thirty years since he had arrived at Other World. It had been a long while since his knowledge of the real world had been forgotten.
Bertelgia bluntly asked Sungchul who was standing frozen like a statue.
Sungchul read the notice that mentioned an entrance exam and decided to change his plans once again.
‘Let’s find a way to enter first. Once we enter and read the Scripture of Calamity, we can strike Aquiroa down.’
Blitzkrieg. Sungchul decided his course of action and headed toward the entrance of the Tower of Recluse again. The hermits who had been on guard before were seen blocking the entrance once again.
“Have you seen the notice?”
Sungchul nodded, and the hermits whispered something between each other. Sungchul simply waited for them to open the door to the Tower, but something unexpected occurred.
“It looks like you haven’t read the notice properly. Today is not the day of the entrance exam.”
“What do you mean?”
“There is another notice with the date of the entrance exam.”
If what the man said was true, then it was a huge blunder. But it could not really be called a blunder because Sungchul had not seen such a notice. He had cautiously checked all the other different flyers when he read the exam notice. If there was one that was advertising the date of an exam, there was absolutely no chance that it wouldn’t be placed prominently to catch the eye. Also, wasn’t Bertelgia with him as well? Sungchul turned to ask her, but she shook her body. She hadn’t seen anything like that as well. If that was the case, then none of this made sense. Sungchul glared back toward the hermits and spoke about what he had seen.
“But, I haven’t seen anything regarding the date of an entrance exam. There was no such thing on the noticeboard.”
He protested in a respectful tone, and the hermits looked at each other. Finally, one of them broke out in laughter and apologized.
“Looks like some bastard ripped up the flyer about the exam again.”
“The competition is pretty cutthroat recently. There are so many Summoned trying to enter the Tower of Recluse. As you know, colossi are running about outside along with the Seven Heroes as well. They are all seeking a safe haven here.”
“There are no safer places than the Summoning Plaza, Dimensional Door, or the Tower of Recluse.”
They turned to speak to Sungchul after having discussed something between each other.
“Just wait at the Village for now. We will send people out again to post the date of the exam.”
The way the situation was turning out, it seemed as though things would take more time to resolve, but it wasn’t all bad. If it was something unavoidable, it would be correct to take time to gather information and prepare everything in order to resolve things perfectly. Sungchul decided to take a step back and breathe as he left this place.