[As the Tam Tam has been slain, a secondary reward based on contributions will be distributed.]
[The Summoning Palace’s Department of Operations is currently judging the contributions.]
The Summoned lingered around the Plaza for a considerable amount of time after the monster had fallen. They could hear bizarre shrieks and feel a terrible quake shaking the earth from beyond the tall Plaza walls. It felt like an eternity had passed before another message appeared before their eyes.
“What…0.2%? Only that much?”
“I only got 0.1%?”
The majority of contributions among them hovered below the 1% threshold. The number that appeared before Sungchul, however, was an outlier.
[Your Contribution: 18.4%]
A preeminent percentage
And preeminent rewards to match.
[You have been judged for S-tier rewards.]
1x Scorpion-tail Whip
14x Palace Token
3x Fresh Meat
1x Week of Rations
5x Holy Water of Escape
1x Potion of Berserk
1x Soldier’s Crossbow
Among the choices, Sungchul chose the crossbow. The pile of items, including the crossbow and the whip, fell in front of Sungchul. He pocketed the most important reward: the Palace Tokens.
‘There are only two more Rank Matches left, but I still require twenty Palace Tokens that I need to earn from them. This is going be close. I might just barely make it’.
The number he needed was dangerously close; this round demonstrated that even when Blanche Plaza reached 1st place with Sungchul taking the lion’s share of the contribution, the maximum Palace Tokens he could be awarded per round was 14. In other words, to earn a similar amount of coins he would need to have Blanche Plaza reach 1st place at least once more, and obtain a large percentage of the contribution again.
‘There is only the Death Match rule and the Last-Man-Standing rule left. Last-Man-Standing is going to be all or nothing, but I still have to keep Blanche Plaza in first place for the Death Match.’
This was the reason he had picked the crossbow. Explosion Scrolls were ideal for taking down a large number of targets, but unfortunately, it wasn’t included in the rewards this time. So now it was ideal to focus on improving the individual strength of many warriors instead. The soldier’s crossbow and similar long range weapons would be highly effective when battling large mobs of the Summoned in the Death Match, so if given to patient individuals, it could prove to be quite effective.
After he’d packed up his items, Sungchul looked through the Stone of Records. As expected, all of the results had been recorded within.
[1. Sungchul Kim – 18.4%]
[2. Ahmuge – 5.2%]
[3. Chun Jungshik – 4.3%]
[12. Bae Sunghae – 3.3%]
[782. Lee Yuhoon – 0%]
[783. Kim Taeksoo – 0%]
Sungchul was in first place. He knew that he deserved more than 80% of the contribution, but he guessed that the judges only attributed the use of the Explosion Scroll into his score; they couldn’t account for how much damage Sungchul had actually done to the creature, especially since he had avoided hitting its vital spots.
On the other hand, all of the Preselected that had hidden themselves with the Holy Water of Escape now received 0% contribution.
He fell into contemplation as he looked at Ahram, who was now spouting profanities with no trace of the excitement he had displayed during the match.
‘It wasn’t in my plans, but I did do something to get noticed. It’s not very likely, as most people will just credit it to the item rather than to me…but I’m bound to get caught if I keep putting up a show like this.’
A difficult restriction attached itself to his plans. He now had to keep Blanche Plaza in first place while also avoiding being noticed. Sungchul slowly returned to the Preselected camp as the excitement of their victory simmered down. He decided to approach Yuhoon first.
“Where is Yungjong?”
“Yungjong? Well…where could he have gone? I was looking for him too.”
Yuhoon’s eyes slid over to Ahram on the opposite side of the camp. They were hiding something. If the ’leader’ Yuhoon was acting like this, there was no point in asking the others. He would need some bait.
Sungchul asked the same question, this time with a piece of meat and two apples in his hands, to a different group of Preselected.
“Where did Yungjong go?”
They all clammed up, but their eyes were glued to the meat. They all had managed to get some Palace Tokens and rations due to Blanche Plaza being ranked in first, but the zero percenters couldn’t get their hands on a luxury item such as fresh meat. And now, the opportunity to taste some had surprisingly arrived before them.
He didn’t have to wait long.
An unknown man approached Sungchul discreetly.
“Will you give that to me in exchange for information?”
Sungchul offered the meat and the apple first, and after grabbing the meat the man started to speak in a hushed tone.
“Before the match, the Drill Sergeant pulled him aside. They left the Palace gates together as I remember.”
“Do you know where they went?”
“That is all I know. Don’t ask me anything else, and don’t act like you know me.”
The Preselected hugged the meat and fled from Sungchul. He must have thought that it would be a shame to leave behind a perfectly good apple as he ran back to grab the apple while avoiding Sungchul’s eyes before taking off once more.
‘The Drill Sergeant.’
Sungchul rose from his seat, left through the Palace gates, and quickly found a clue. He could see the Homunculus’ distinct tracks which stood apart from the countless footprints on the trail. Since the doors had been closed during the Rank Match, the chance of it fading away was slim. He followed the tracks through the forest, and they soon led him to a very familiar building; the Forsaken Cathedral. This had been the first gathering place of the Preselected.
Sungchul took note of the Cathedral’s eerie atmosphere as he entered the building. He could see traces of a fire from last night, and there was the faint scent of flames and meat lingering in the air. He slowly took in his surroundings until he discovered something. There was a hand peeking out of a casket.
He quietly approached the casket and pulled it open. It contained an unrecognizable corpse which had been torn to shreds. He could only confirm the body’s identity from its lower half.
On the face, which looked closer to tenderized meat, Sungchul found a small tuft of hair.
It was the work of a Werewolf. Many possibilities flashed past his mind, but suddenly he heard some noises that were coming from nearby.
“Ah. It’s so annoying cleaning up after humans!”
It was a familiar, grating voice. The Drill Sergeant. He was entering the Cathedral with a smaller Homunculus pushing a wheelbarrow.
“But we can get lots of candy, so it’s all right! Even my child can eat some now!”
The Drill Sergeant held out a piece of candy for the smaller Homunculus who happily ate it.
“It’s so delicious. Mama! One more please!”
A human’s shadow stood in front of the happy pair of Homunculi.
“Eh? A familiar human is here. What are you doing here, human?”
The Drill Sergeant looked towards the open casket.
“What did you see, human?”
She revealed her razor-like teeth.
“Answer me, human! What did you see? You didn’t happen to see what’s inside there, did you?”
“Did you bring this cart so that you could carry away the corpse?”
Sungchul asked in a curt voice. The smaller Homunculus standing beside the Drill Sergeant hopped up towards him and postured threateningly.
“How dare some human speak like this? How dare you talk back? Just because you’ve become a little stronger, you think…”
Sungchul grabbed the Homunculus by the leg.
The Homunculus that was lifted into the air looked around in confusion for a moment before it crashed to the floor and turned into a bloody paste.
The Drill Sergeant’s eyes grew wide.
“Child! My child!”
The Drill Sergeant’s head twisted towards Sungchul like the hands of a windup clock.
“H-how dare you kill my child…I may not have birthed him, but I still can’t forgive you; I will never forgive you. Even if you are a Preselected, I can’t allow you to walk away after seeing that corpse…This Drill Sergeant will now gladly kill you!”
The Drill Sergeant took up a martial arts stance and gestured towards him.
After a while, she began spinning her fists like a windmill. It looked like residing in the Summoning Palace for twenty years had given her a chance to learn martial arts.
“I’ll turn you into my slave and keep you stuck between the boundary of life and death!”
However, on this day, she had picked a fight with the wrong opponent. Her opponent was the strongest being known to all of humanity. Sungchul wasn’t someone that a Homunculus could face even in a million years. There was a horrifying scream that soon filled the Cathedral.
“Who killed Yungjong?”
Sungchul pulled out one of her fingers and crushed the wound with his thumb.
“UWAAAAAAA! Drill Sergeant doesn’t know this! Human! Please release me! I can forgive the killer of my…Eeeeng!”
He ripped off the rest of her fingers, and then began to tear away the flesh of her hand.
“I’ll ask you again. Who killed Yungjong?”
The Drill Sergeant finally realized that the human standing before her lacked any form of sympathy.
“Ahram…It was Ahram Park! Human! Spare me…Please…”
“Ahram? Someone like Ahram couldn’t possibly kill him.”
“No! Ahram is now a Werewolf! Human! That red-headed Mage turned Ahram into a Werewolf!”
“So that’s how it is.”
The whole truth finally revealed itself. This explained how Ahram could kill Yungjong with his meager strength. Werewolves had an abysmally low growth limit, but becoming one was the easiest way to a large boost in physical stats.
‘They didn’t involve a Mage directly and simply gave him the method. What a vile woman. Truly disgusting.’
Finally, he extorted the quest list from the Drill Sergeant, and she spat out the bright orb while trembling. He couldn’t help but feel disappointed.
‘It’s just the common quests. I guess that means even this bastard only amounts to so much.’
“Now…how about letting me go? Human? Sir? Please?”
Sungchul looked directly at the Drill Sergeant and pushed up his hair that covered his face, then spoke icily.
“Do you remember my face?”
“Of course I remember, human! You are the greatest and most merciful among all of the Preselected!”
He sighed and put his hands on his face.
After the sickening sounds of muscles and bones being rearranged, a completely different face appeared before the Drill Sergeant.
“You must have seen me twenty-five years ago.”
Her memories flashed before her eyes when she heard this until she recalled whose face it was. The Drill Sergeant paled.
“C-could it be…you’re the Enemy of the World?! How could that be…you died five years ago…to the Human-Dwarf Coalition…”
“It must be a disappointment that I didn’t die. Also, it wasn’t they who couldn’t kill me, but rather I who chose not to kill them. Remember that.”
Sungchul grabbed the sack of candy that filled her pocket and shoved it down her throat. Her razor-like teeth shattered as her esophagus was fully blocked. He dragged her across the Cathedral floor as she struggled painfully then punched her a few times before tossing her deep into the forest.
He turned away from the burning Cathedral and pulled out a small whistle from his possessions. A small squirrel descended from the sky and sat on his shoulder.
It was Krill Regall’s Sky Squirrel.
– I want to know more about Dolorence Winterer.
He tied a small gem as well as the note to the squirrel before patting its head. The Sky Squirrel deftly flew off into the night sky and disappeared from sight.
Editor Note: Homunculus have an ambiguous gender
*It is a Korean idiom which means ‘With enough time one will be able to do anything’