[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 violent sounds and quakes that could tilt the very world coming from over 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’ve only got 0.1%?”
The majority of contributions among them hovered below the 1% threshold. The number that appeared before Sungchul, however, was the outlier.
[Your Contribution: 18.4%]
For an oppressive level of contribution, the rewards would be just as oppressive.
[You have been judged for S-tier rewards.]
1x Scorpion-tail Whip
14x Palace Tokens
3x Fresh Meat
1x Week of Rations
5x Divine Elixir 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; I still require twenty-three Palace Tokens that I need to earn from them. This is gonna be close. I should just be able to make it.’
This match showed the maximum amount of tokens he could earn with Blanche Plaza in first place; Even with a spectacle like this, he obtained only 14 tokens. To earn something similar Blanche Plaza would have to remain in first place while performing a similarly impressive feat.
‘There is only the Death Match rule and the Free for All rule left. Free for All 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 target, but for the death match, it was more critical to take down the important targets than anything else.
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. Kim Sungchul – 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 could’ve argued that he had more than 80% of the contribution, but he guessed that the judges only attributed the explosion scroll’s success in bringing the Tam Tam to its feet into his score. They couldn’t account for how much damage he had actually done to the creature, nor had he even tried to aim for any of the vital spots. On the other hand, all of the preselected that had stood by with the divine elixir over their bodies now had 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 first approach Yuhoon.
“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 them. 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 meat had surprisingly arrived before them.
An unknown man approached Sungchul discreetly.
“Will you give that to me in exchange for information?”
Sungchul offered the meat and apple first, after grabbing the meat the man started to speak in a hushed tone .
“Before the match, the Drill Sergeant pulled him aside. They’d left the palace gates together as I remember.”
“Do you know where they’d 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 and ran away 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. As the doors had been closed during the rank match, the chance of it fading away was slim. He followed its tracks through the forest and it soon led him to a very familiar building; the Forsaken Cathedral. This had been the first gathering place of the Preselected.
Sungchul soaked in the cathedral’s eerie presence and entered the building. He could see traces of a recent fire, 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 wolfman. 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 alright! 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 spoke 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.
“You! You Bastard!!!”
The Drill Sergeant’s head twisted towards Sungchul like the seconds needle 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 you’ve already seen that corpse… This Drill Sergeant will now gladly kill you!”
The Drill Sergeant took up a martial arts stance and jabbed towards him.
After a while, she began spinning her fists like a windmill. They say, ‘living in a temple for three years will allow one to read the poem of the moonlight breeze’*, and it looked like living in the Summoning Palace for 20 years had also allowed her to learn a few fighting techniques.
“I’ll turn you into my slave and keep you stuck between the boundary of life and death!”
However, on this day, she’d picked a fight with the wrong opponent. His 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 continued pulling out all of her fingers and continued with some pieces of her flesh.
“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 Park Ahram! Human! Spare me… Please…”
“Ahram? Someone like Ahram couldn’t possibly kill him.”
“No! Ahram is now a wolfman! Human! That redheaded mage turned Ahram into a wolfman!”
“So that’s how it is.”
The whole truth finally revealed itself. This explained how Ahram could kill Yungjong with his meager strength. Werewolves; they had abysmal future growth, but it was the best method to gain instantaneous strength.
‘They didn’t involve a magician 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 raised her above his head, 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 started to slap her face with one hand.
After the sounds of bones cracking and muscles tearing, the Drill Sergeant’s face was completely unrecognizable.
“You must have seen me 25 years ago.”
Her past desperately rushed through her as she heard these words until a face finally came out of her memories. The Drill Sergeant paled.
“C-could it be… you’re the world’s enemy?! 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.”
Sungchul grabbed the sack of candy that was bloated in 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’