Sungchul diligently gathered information about the general environment surrounding the Tower of Recluse during the week, and what piqued his interest was the terrifying eyewitness report on Aquiroa’s flagship Procrustes.
According to rumors spread by the crewmen on other airships, there were monstrous humanoids made of some white material roaming the deck of Procrustes. Their sensory perception was every bit as peculiar as their appearance because they were able to sense when they’ve been spotted by a member of the crew and would then immediately disappear like a ghost. And whenever they did so, the witness would then hear hair-raising eerie whispers the like of which they’ve never heard before.
The deductions and guesses on the identity of the monster were many, but none came close to the truth. At least, that’s how it sounded to Sungchul who was aware of its identity. Sungchul even went on a nonchalant reconnaissance.
Sungchul had walked all the way up to where the ship was anchored and estimated the distance between the balloons and the airships with his eyes to plan his ascension route for a later date and even hid in the bushes to watch the activities on the ship the entire day.
One interesting part he did notice was that there were a large number of werewolves aboard Aquiroa’s airship. A pack made up of approximately 4 to 5 werewolves wandered around the Tower of Recluse on a day-to-day basis in order to find something desperately.
Of course, Sungchul was curious and was able to overhear their conversation after persistently following them.
“How is it? Did you find the Dragon?”
“Nope. Not a single trace. That fucking supervisor piece of shit! He knows she is not at the tower, how the fuck are we supposed to find her?”
“Isn’t it because he’s also being pressured by the higher-ups? Come on, let’s just get our meals.”
Beside the werewolves was a corpse of a woman with a face that had yet to drain of color. Her pitiful attire indicated her refugee status, and it looked like she was wandering about the forest alone when she, unfortunately, became werewolf food.
It wouldn’t be smart to stir trouble at this moment, and Sungchul had even gained information he had hoped for from their conversation.
‘A dragon… There’s only one existence around here that could be referred to as a Dragon.’
Half-Dragon and Half-Human Kha’nes. The most powerful Hermit.
He wasn’t aware of the reason, but Aquiroa was looking for her, and not out of goodwill. Sungchul wordlessly retreated from his spot. There was nothing more he could particularly do other than this.
The conflict between the villagers of Toporo Village, and the refugees were deeper than what was originally perceived, but it didn’t look like it would escalate into violence anytime soon. There were rumors that the Colossus that destroyed the homes of the refugees was heading into other regions, and the Hermits were diligently carrying out their work as inhibitors. Sungchul was unexpectedly able to leisurely spend his remaining time in this lovely village.
“Aren’t you going to study?”
Bertelgia couldn’t bear to watch anymore and said something, but to Sungchul it was futile.
“Studying right now wouldn’t make a difference.”
Things will be resolved quickly once he entered the tower. Sungchul who had an adamant belief in himself was rather tranquil about it. And just like that the day of the test quickly arrived.
The village was bustling with Summoned from various regions of the continent around testing day. Sungchul was able to hear names of countries he had forgotten about such as: Greece, England, India, Japan, and more.
One man of Japanese origins pretended to be amicable with him as he believed Sungchul was similarly Japanese due to the black hair, but when Sungchul bluntly revealed that it wasn’t the case, the man’s attitude visibly changed.
“Ah, a Korean? I didn’t realize that some backwater place like Korea would be subject to a Mass Summoning as well. It was my mistake.”
Sungchul didn’t particularly mind it.
Instead, he worked toward eavesdropping on the Summoned from the outside. It was through these people that he learned that the Colossi had brought on destruction upon the continent that was greater than he could have imagined.
The major countries such as the Human Empire were able to minimize casualties with swift action, but in the extreme ends of the Southeastern Plains that were filled with minor nations were barely left standing. They were able to endure as they were entering the autumnal season, but when winter arrives, their suffering would be increasingly aggravated.
‘I should finish taking care of the Colossi before I’m able to find the whereabouts of the remaining Seven Heroes.’
As the sun was hitting its peak, the Hermits of the Tower guided the exam candidates to the tower, and as he was planning something big as soon as he stepped through the doors, Sungchul confirmed the location of Procrustes one more time and began to loosen his body. Unfortunately, something unexpected occurred.
“This is the testing spot.”
The place the hermits had led them wasn’t the interior of the tower but to the wooden structure tucked away and hidden in the shadow behind the tower.
Sungchul’s plan was being ruined from the very beginning.
“That’s why I said you should study some more.”
Bertelgia scolded him, but her words didn’t enter his ears.
The testing process continued on regardless of Sungchul’s mental state.
“From now on, you all will be undergoing the testing here. The question presented was thought up by the previous Summoned.”
A young man who appeared like a slave began to distribute the test. The moment Sungchul saw the test, he felt his mind going blank. He might have been able to leave it all to luck had the test format been multiple choice, but all the questions were cruelly set to be open-ended which were graded on both the answer and the process.
‘I… don’t know anything!’
It was as Sungchul was contemplating his final choice of brute force. The hermit in charge of supervising spoke with a soft voice.
“We will be considerate of the situation of the Summoned, and we will be allowing this test to be in open book format. I don’t know the specifics but I’m told that no layperson is able to solve the problems even if they were to refer to the books.”
The supervisor pointed toward the bookcase affixed to the wall and recommended everyone to use them for reference freely.
For once, Sungchul felt his blood begin to boil slightly. There was a chance.
He could hear murmuring from all over, and Sungchul took the opportunity to whisper something to Bertelgia.
“Hm…? For Real? You want me to do something like that?”
“It is a request, Bertelgia.”
When the atmosphere was becoming quite rowdy, the supervisor clapped his hands to gather everyone’s attention.
“The test will be taken quite liberally, but restrain yourselves from plagiarizing answers.”
As he mentioned, the situation was ideal for cheating. The examinees weren’t seated at individual desks, but rather in a single file or facing each other at a large table. It was an ideal environment to copy someone’s answer if one wished.
The supervisor made an addendum as though he was already concerned with this point.
“There are invisible Observer’s Eyes behind each examinee monitoring them. Any dishonesty will result in immediate expulsion and due punishments will be meted out so please refrain yourselves from acting rashly.”
The supervisor’s words seemed believable, but Sungchul‘s Eye of Truth couldn’t detect a single Observer’s Eye. It was a form of a bluff, but the others who weren’t aware of this truth clearly looked unsettled as the talk of due punishments weighted heavily on them. They might become incapacitated as a light punishment, or even killed if the punishment was particularly heavy-handed.
Groans poured out from the mouths of examinees who had thoughts of cheating.
“Now, the test will begin. The duration will be 2 hours. Please fill out as many answers as you can.”
The Hermits said as such and left the site. The one who appeared to have the least amount of duties had taken the supervisor role.
The 20 of so Summoned all headed toward the bookcase at the same time and grabbed the books they needed.
Sungchul remained in his seat.
Anyone looking over might have thought he was thinking deeply over an answer, but these questions weren’t something Sungchul could solve regardless of how much he thought on them. He was actually scanning the others to see who appeared to be the most intelligent from the corner of his eyes.
Two people stood out.
A man with darker skin who looked to be Indian, and the Japanese man who pretended to be friendly with Sungchul before. The Japanese man had been sitting right next to Sungchul, and when tests began, he looked towards Sungchul and grinned.
“I think I’ve been in Other World for about 5 years, but these questions are quite easy. Don’t you think so?”
When Sungchul didn’t give any reply, the man muttered something incomprehensible in Japanese and snickered to himself before starting his questions. He appeared to be quite confident as he didn’t head out toward the reference books in the bookcase like the others before filling out his answer sheet.
‘I guess this guy has more skill.’
As Sungchul was plainly looking at his direction, the Japanese man snickered before forming a barrier with his arm and lowering his upper body to hide his answer sheet completely from Sungchul’s gaze.
‘Wow, what an asshole…’
Sungchul immediately stood from his seat and walked toward the bookcase before pulling out all the books that met his hands.
“Bertelgia, it’s your turn.”
Sungchul furtively snuck her in between the books that he had pulled.
“Ok, leave it to me!”
Sungchul held a pile of books and returned to his seat. The Japanese man who was answering his test excitedly after covering his answers snuck a peek at the books Sungchul had brought, smirked mockingly, and muttered to himself audibly.
“Why would he bring books that weren’t related to answering the exam? Does he really know nothing?”
Sungchul laid the pile of books he had brought between the man and himself. The thick books acted as an appropriate barrier between himself and the man.
The Japanese Summoned who saw this pushed his lips out into a pout as his brows shot up.
“You seem honest despite being a Korean.”
He loosened his frame from guarding his answer sheet and began to fill out his answers in a more relaxed posture. On the other side, Sungchul sat still staring absentmindedly at the near-blank sheet before him. An uninformed observer could potentially mistakenly conclude that he was meditating, but Sungchul didn’t do anything.
Bertelgia was hidden within the barrier made of books.
‘It feels like I’m doing strange things recently. I am definitely the guide for Creationists, but I’m being used as a cheating tool. I should be more clear about my opinion on this next time!’
She was making an exact replica of the Japanese man’s answer sheet that was being written next to her onto a blank sheet she had.
The Japanese man completed his answers first and the moment he stretched out his body, Bertelgia lightly shook herself.
Sungchul immediately extended his hand and retrieved her from the barrier. The Japanese man flipped his answer page immediately, just in case, Sungchul was trying to cheat and placed the book that Sungchul had brought on top.
“I’ll just borrow one. No problem, right?”
Sungchul didn’t bother to reply.
No, He didn’t have time to reply.
He was too busy copying the Japanese man’s answers that Bertelgia had copied.
It was awkward holding a pen after so long, but Sungchul was able to prepare a near perfect answer sheet in the end.
Two hours seemed to pass in a blink of an eye.
“That’s the test. Please hand all answer sheets to the front.”
As everyone was letting out groans, the Japanese man peeked over at Sungchul’s sheet and lightly whistled.
“Oh. You managed to fill in quite a decent amount?”
He should have stopped after the first time.
As he was trying to further provoke Sungchul, Sungchul’s hand moved imperceptibly fast so as to grab the Japanese man’s test sheet hidden under the book.
When the clueless Japanese man was about to gleefully check his answers hidden beneath the book, he discovered a shocking truth.
“It’s g-gone! My answer sheet… my answer sheet is gone!”
His answer sheet had long since been turned to dust by Sungchul’s hands.
Sungchul looked at the man callously and stood from his seat.
“You should’ve studied a bit more.”
Sungchul left the man grasping at his hair while crying in despair behind him and leisurely turned in his answer sheet.
The results were revealed the next day.
He qualified without question.
The doors to the Tower of Recluse was held wide open for Sungchul.
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