A small explosion occurred inside the cauldron. Sungchul who breathed in the musky smoke then read the message which appeared before him with a blank look.
This was already his third attempt. His gaze naturally moved over to Bertelgia who was floating near the cauldron.
“How did this happen?”
“What do you mean, ’how did this happen’?”
She replied obtusely and opened up one of her pages before Sungchul.
“You’re failing because you didn’t read the book properly and only glanced over the ingredients before you started.”
He didn’t have anything to say because she was speaking the truth.
“Now, slowly read the page again. Starting from how much of each ingredient to add and followed by reading the instructions. Don’t just eyeball it.”
“I didn’t eyeball it…”
Sungchul had pride in his status as a high-class chef. He calmed his heart, and then looked over the pages displayed by Bertelgia more seriously. His gaze gained a more solemn light.
‘Now that I’ve reread it, it does read like a cookbook.’
Other than the final product, Cooking and Alchemy were mostly of a similar process.
Prepare each of the ingredients properly and use exact amounts, work meticulously to focus on creating the finished product. Sungchul entirely focused all of his attention.
Bertelgia, seeing his changed attitude, muttered a few words.
“Well, maybe he has some talent.”
After some time had passed, a blue light softly began to gather around the cauldron and the ingredients within turned into a single product. It had become a dark and congealed liquid.
Sungchul released a breath of relief as he was finally rewarded after having put in so much effort.
Type: Ingredient / Consumable
Effect: Flammable substance. Water excites the flames.
This time, it had been properly created. Sungchul gathered some dry branches and poured Inextinguishable Fire upon them.
“You’re not trying to test it, are you?”
He nodded at Bertelgia’s question.
“Hmm. It won’t be easy to manage the flames. Dig a pit before setting it on fire. If you’re unlucky, you might just burn down the whole forest.”
Despite her warning, he took one of the Alchemic Charcoals that were burning underneath the cauldron with his hands and then tossed it on top of a pile of wood.
Fueled by the Inextinguishable Fire, the small ember burned fiercely.
‘It is a very controlled burn. I think this has some practical use.’
He felt as if the fog blocking his path was beginning to lift. There were a lot of problems still left to solve, but discovering a possible solution let Sungchul feel much better about the whole situation.
“Hey? What are you going to do with that?”
The Inextinguishable Fire burned fiercely. At the rate it was going, it looked as though it would soon burn down the entire mountain.
Sungchul stood in front of the flickering flames and looked at it with passive eyes.
“What are you doing now?”
He suddenly punched towards the fire. An unbelievable amount of force was carried by the punch, which caused the flames to flicker weakly.
Between Bertelgia’s fearful gasps, he threw out a couple more punches and uneventfully extinguished the Inextinguishable Fire; then, after the fire went out, he grabbed Bertelgia.
“W-what are you doing?”
Bertelgia asked as she fluttered in panic.
“I’m finished, so I’m packing everything up.”
“Finished? What do you mean finished? I still have as much knowledge as there is sand on the beach! Can’t you just leave me be? The storage is dark and humid. I don’t like it.”
“You stand out too much.”
“What if I just stay inconspicuous?”
“You’re too big, and you fly.”
“How dare you talk about a woman’s size, so cruel.”
“Well, Miss. Would you mind going into the storage now?”
“I-I can become smaller! I don’t have to fly either.”
She shone brightly and then became palm-sized as if to prove her words.
Her pitch grew higher relative to her reduced size.
Sungchul looked at the reduced Bertelgia for a bit before nodding.
“That size seems fine.”
He put her inside the military jacket that he was wearing. She was a perfect fit for the pocket, as though she was made it. And as soon as Bertelgia was placed in the pocket she poked her head out. She spoke out quickly after seeing Sungchul glance over at her.
“I want to see some scenery.”
He had no reason to reject her, so he redirected his attention elsewhere.
‘I made the weapon, but now I need to find a way to pour it onto the Werewolves.’
Werewolves couldn’t use Magic, but they did have a bestial instinct. It was so advanced that they could even dodge arrows coming from four different directions. They also had significantly higher dexterity than the average person, so it would be difficult to land even a drop of this liquid onto them with a half-baked plan.
“What are you thinking so deeply about?”
Bertelgia, who had been quiet in the pocket, popped a question.
“I’m trying to think of how to get the Inextinguishable Fire onto the Werewolves.”
“Daddy often used a Dragon-headed tube and sprayed it like it was breathing fire, or he tossed out some pottery with a trigger.”
“But that’s too slow. They wouldn’t fall for something like that unless they’re stupid.”
“It’s just a matter of making them fall for it then.”
After listening to her thoughts, an idea flickered in Sungchul’s head. Krill’s message and Ahram’s living corpse. Both events seemed to be unrelated, but their timing was too opportune to call them a coincidence.
‘So that’s it. Dolorence Winterer is actually trying to eliminate the Preselected. Among them, Ahram must be her number one target.’
The Werewolves would have to target Ahram. They would also have to tear apart the corpse completely so that it was unrecognizable. That was the only way Dolorence would escape any fault. Sungchul decided to target these facts in his plan.
“‘Ey, Mr. Whatchurname. What do you have for me this time?’
Jungshik looked deflated from the incident with Ahram, but he was still a figure who had a large influence within the Blanche Plaza. The overflowing confidence and sharp aura, however, had withered. He moved his camp to the corner farthest away from the Preselected, and the number of guards also seemed to have increased.
“I have to talk to you about the next Rank Match.”
Sungchul briefly summarized what was going to occur for the next Rank Match. It would be the Death Match rule with human vs. human combat, and the score would be based on the number of kills, etc. He omitted the part about Werewolves making their appearance in the match, though.
“Hoh. News sure travels fast. How did you get this information?”
“I can’t tell you that, but if you cooperate with me, I’m more than willing to share it with you each time.”
A mischievous smile formed on Jungshik’s lips.
“Well, let’s leave it at that, then. What did you want from me?”
Sungchul requested to organize Jungshik’s forces during the Rank Match. He wanted Jungshik’s people to stay behind and stay in a safe place until the signal.
“Hoh. You’re concerned about us? Or maybe you’re more concerned about how many points we would earn?”
“If you only care about the points, you’re welcome to ignore what I have to say.”
Sungchul left Jungshik with these words. He knew it would be pointless to waste more words arguing after already having said everything that needed to be said. He was also confident that Jungshik would listen to him. Jungshik had already gained from his previous advice, and he was feeling cautious after his recent losses. Jungshik was also more clever than he looked. Every loss from Jungshik’s faction risked Hakchul regaining his control over the Plaza.
‘I think we can prevent major losses on our side from the Werewolves with this.’
He had prepared a relatively sharp blade. All he had to do now was to prepare a shield to defend against the enemy’s blade which was several times sharper than his. Sungchul observed Ahram who was sitting outside of the training center and looking out with a blank stare.
The hooded Ahram clacked his teeth while swinging his body from side to side like a roly-poly. Everyone continued to avoid him as he looked to be unwell and was continuously making unsettling noises. Sungchul made his way to the Preselected faction across from Ahram and sought out Yuhoon.
“You wanted to speak with me?”
He pretended to be polite, but his face and attitude clearly displayed that he didn’t want to deal with Sungchul. Sungchul couldn’t say when it had started, but Yuhoon had gotten a bad impression of him.
Sungchul realized this after the second Rank Match had finished. He had gathered up the ostracized Preselected and gotten high scores. Inversely, the other Preselected who had the Holy Water had now become undesirables. The leadership of the two had naturally been compared, which eventually got to Yuhoon.
“I’ll be brief because I need to start training.”
Sungchul acted naturally as if none of these insignificant squabbles bothered him. He spoke his prepared words calmly.
“I came to share some hot information, fresh from my Mage.”
“What information is that?”
Yuhoon had been cautious around Sungchul, but hearing that it was from a Mage relaxed his guard. Sungchul looked around and spoke in a hushed voice.
“It is not confirmed, but I’ve heard that in the next match there will be people who’re targeting us specifically among the opposition.”
“It looks like they are enemies of the people taking care of us. The Mage said that the people taking care of us would take a big hit if the opposition kills us. In the end, it’s all rumors, but…”
“So what do you want?”
“I want us, the Preselected, to organize ourselves at the rear.”
The enemies weren’t just the Werewolves. There were as many Summoned enemies as there were people within the Blanche Plaza. It was also convenient to separate the average Summoned from the Werewolves to enact his plan. This was why he had approached Yuhoon to talk about how they would dispatch, but Yuhoon only looked at him coldly.
“I think that might be difficult.”
Yuhoon was driven by his opportunistic nature and other petty emotions like envy. He stared without blinking at Sungchul. And with a mocking, chipper voice, he said,
“I have to achieve a good score during this Rank Match no matter what. You might be able to take it easy after getting the top score in the last match, but my friends standing behind me and I don’t have that luxury. We have to make it up this match. My comrades and I will be standing on the front lines.
“Is that so? You might die.”
“Is that a threat?”
Yuhoon frowned and bared his teeth. It was an intimidating face without a trace of the amiability he always carried. Sungchul had assessed him accurately during their first encounter.
‘Is this Yuhoon’s real face? Truly pitiful. Staking so much pride on such a small amount of authority.’
Sungchul decided there was no more cooperation to be gained from Yuhoon, then spoke again.
“Well…if you insist, then I won’t press you anymore. I can only ask the others directly.”
“I wonder how many people will listen to you.”
“At the very least, I’ll be taking Ahram with me.”
Upon hearing his last words, Yuhoon finally let loose his guard and broke out in laughter.
“Take him. If you can, that is.”
Sungchul smiled widely and headed over towards Ahram.
“Hey, Ahram! Let’s go!”
Ahram, who had been swinging back and forth, turned and bared his teeth at Sungchul when he approached.
Between his clothing, the grotesque arm of a Werewolf began to appear. His self-defense mechanism kicked in. It was the only instinct Dolores installed into the corpse of Ahram. The arm could easily rip apart an average Summoned, but its opponent was Sungchul.
“Let’s go, boy! It’s time for your meds!”
Sungchul relaxedly supported Ahram and began walking forward. Strangers might have thought that it was just someone supporting a sick person. Yuhoon and the other Preselected whispered quietly, wondering since when have the two of them gotten so close with one another. No one knew the truth.
A living corpse had no need for organs; Sungchul examined Ahram, whose empty internal cavity had been filled with Inextinguishable Fire. Satisfied, he rewrapped Ahram’s decaying body with a cloak and left.
Ahram, finding himself alone again, once more began to swing his body from side to side.
The preparations had been completed.
Notes: *Roly-poly toy is a toy with a rounded bottom, which allows it to swing from side to side. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roly-poly_toy