[Third Rank Match will begin.]
[Rule: Death Match]
[Kill the Summoned from the other Plazas.]
[There is no good or evil here, only life and death. Do not hesitate to cut down your enemies; there is no place here for people who cannot take another’s life.]
People from the other Plazas could be seen as the door in the center of the Palace opened. There were approximately seven hundred people. They were ordinary people no different from those from the Blanche Plaza. This might be one of the reasons people referred to Death Match as one of the worst rulesets. It was physically challenging to cut down a monster, but only by becoming a monster could one cut down another person. A message appeared in front of the hesitant Summoned.
[There will be a penalty game for anyone who hasn’t scored a single kill until the end, this penalty game has a survival rate of 2.4%. You have been warned.]
[Furthermore, there will also be a reward honoring the one with the highest score, so give it your all.]
It was a cruel set of rewards and punishments. There was no better way to dominate a large group of people than the carrot-and-stick approach.
The Summoned already understood the way of the Palace. There would be rewards and progress waiting for those who overcame danger, but those who cowered would forever be left behind to continue their bare existence until eventually dying. There were many Summoned who were prepared to make up for their past mistakes and bet it all on this match. It was for this purpose that nearly half of the Summoned stood along the front of the Plaza. Most of them were Hakchul and his people.
“It is heartbreaking, but we must get a good score in this match to recover our strength.”
Hakchul personally stood in the frontlines and made his speech with an awkward voice. Most of the people were listening halfheartedly.
Yuhoon’s group of Preselected also stood at the frontlines and prepared for the battle.
“Don’t be nervous. There aren’t many out there that are stronger than us. And in case we come across one, we can always run or try to outnumber them. Above all else, remember this: whether you kill someone strong or weak, they are only worth one point.”
Yuhoon put forth some common sense in a comforting voice. Most of the Preselected didn’t really respond to his speech, but they all resolved to score well in this match in one way or another.
‘Kill those who are weaker than us.’
The threshold for maximum rewards for the Death Match was set at five points. The sword-wielding Preselected gripped their weapons tighter.
On the other hand, Jungshik’s faction stood far to the rear, away from the battle.
“There is no need to rush. Those trash at the front won’t be able to get much anyways. They’ll just be our meat shields. We’ll go in when the meat shields have tired themselves out.”
There was great unrest in his heart despite his confident words.
‘Will it really turn out the way he said it would?’
With wary eyes, Jungshik observed Sungchul who was standing at the rear with him. Sungchul stood together with a few people; they were surrounding Ahram who clearly looked unwell. He couldn’t figure out what Sungchul was up to, but they were both situated in the rear. This meant Sungchul was confident in his suggestion and was taking the same risk as he was. Jungshik comforted himself with these words while waiting for the Rank Match to begin.
Sungchul stared off into the sky with an expressionless face. It was a clear day, and not a single cloud could be seen in the sky. The sun burned brightly, forming short but dark shadows. The soft breeze from the mountains felt cool and pleasant.
“Ah…I feel so nervous. Where could Yungjong have gone?”
Sunghae, caught in past traumas, began to mutter to herself. She had chosen to stand with Sungchul rather than with Yuhoon. It wasn’t out of some ’woman’s intuition’, but rather, out of a forced obligation. It was well known that her staff was once Sungchul’s and they had also acted together before. There were many within the Preselected who held the same assumptions Ahram once had: that she was a pathetic woman who had slept with Sungchul to get his staff.
The two other men that were standing with Sungchul, Jungshik Park and Woojung Kim, had joined Sungchul out of their own free will. They had gotten acquainted because they both coincidentally were used car salesman and both disliked Yuhoon. They also benefited from Sungchul previously, and thus they had chosen to stick with him. However, they were put off by the sight of Ahram’s cloaked body that was swinging in front of them.
“Pro Kim, you sure that guy will be alright like that?”
For reasons unknown, the used car salesman duo had decided to call him Pro Kim.
Sungchul spoke bluntly and looked over the entire Plaza with indifferent eyes. He couldn’t find the person that he was looking for. Ahmuge the suspected Regressor; they had shaken hands with the idea of cooperating later, but she had concealed herself right before the Rank Match had started.
‘Intriguing. There is someone that can hide even from my eyes.’
Some people were known to have ’thin shadows’. This meant that they had such a small presence that they were often overlooked. Ahmuge was also one of them, but in her case, it was more like her shadow didn’t exist at all. She’d not only managed to evade his supernaturally honed senses, but also managed to slip beneath his guard and surprise him.
‘Could she have some hidden ability?’
Although it was commonly known that Regressors normally return with the memories of their previous lives, there might also be some secrets which Sungchul was still unaware of. This was especially so in Other World, which was filled with both mystery and wonder.
The sound of a Homunculus blowing a horn sounded from a distance. Sungchul immediately returned to his group and shared some equipment with his comrades.
“Jungshik Park, I’ll give you this shield. Protect Ahram with it.”
Jungshik Park had a small stature, but he had spunk. His Strength and Vitality were among the highest in the group. But he had a trauma related to corpses, and so he hadn’t been able to display his true strength in the first Rank Match. Other than his nasty habit of smelling his butt hole with his finger, he was actually quite a good addition to his forces.
When he received the Light Shield of Vitality, he scratched beneath his butt and tilted his head.
“Protect that guy? That guy, he seems a bit off his rockers, but isn’t he still the strongest one here?”
“I think he’s afflicted with some kind of side-effect from the Werewolf transformation. It will be enough to protect him just until he can transform. I’ll give you the signal. You just have to protect him until then.”
“I got it. I suppose Pro Kim knows best.”
Jungshik Park nodded his head and looked at Ahram with a difficult expression.
Next, Sungchul handed Woojung the Soldier’s Crossbow.
“The same to you too. Protect Ahram with this.”
Contrary to Jungshik Park, Woojung had a large stature and a threatening aura, but his personality was introverted, and he didn’t have the confidence for close-quarter combat. He had almost died of anxiety during the Tam Tam match. However, he happened to have been a Special Forces sniper during his military years and had no problem doing the attack one-sidedly. He would be more than able to pull his weight during the battle.
“Oh hey. This is too much. What will Pro Kim be fighting with?”
Sungchul revealed his beginner blade at Woojung’s question.
Sunghae had already received a weapon from Sungchul. It was the Magic staff, Moonlight. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that it was the most effective weapon within the Summoning Palace. Sungchul decided to not give Sunghae any particular orders because she would never be able to overcome her hatred for Ahram.
Sungchul, who had finished laying out his orders, looked to the front. The barrier between the Blanche and the Azure Plaza was slowly dissipating.
[The Battle will now begin.]
[Please show us a battle worthy of an event run in the name of the God of Order]
The barrier disappeared, and countless little skirmishes broke out in between the Palace gates of the Plazas. Since the Summoned were inexperienced with large scale battles, they were excessively unorganized and cautious. Both sides moved like the tide with neither side willing to fully commit to the battle. They both instinctively knew that if even a drop of blood were spilled, there would be no turning back from there.
“This is why I don’t like Death Match style. I really can’t stand to watch this. Fucking pussies.”
The influential people within the Observation Towers watching the Rank Match began to grow impatient and spoke harshly. In this world, cowards were considered worse than criminals.
Dolorence wore a glamorously adorned robe that she normally didn’t wear, and was socializing among the influential crowd like a true social butterfly.
Whenever she met someone’s eyes, she would give a refined smile and greeted them with a nod. If they spoke to her, she responded with grace and charm as she willingly became their interlocutor.
One of them complained as they watched the bloodless Plaza.
“Ah! I can’t stand to watch this! I heard the Blanche Plaza killed the Tam Tam and had high expectations to see some monsters, but they’re all just fucking expendable peasants. At this rate, someone will have to go and ruthlessly cull them down.”
Dolorence wore a thin smile and matched the mood with a sensual voice.
“How about we make a bet with the Azure Plaza, then? They’re not as good as the Scarlet Plaza, but Azure Plaza is backed by pretty powerful forces. They might have prepared something special after hearing about the news with the Tam Tam.”
“Mmm…Azure Plaza, eh…?”
As the man contemplated, Dolorence moved over to the window looking over the entirety of the Plaza and checked her pocket watch
‘It’s almost show time.’
A cruel smile formed on Dolorence’s lips as something unexpected happened within the Azure Plaza’s side.
The people standing at the frontline suddenly collapsed and began to moan as though they were having seizures. Not just one, but six people began to convulse as though it had all been planned beforehand. All eyes from both Plazas, after having nothing better to do, gathered upon this scene.
“What…what’s wrong with them?”
All of the Azure Plaza mostly looked confused at the sudden scene, but the Blanche Plaza was different. They had already witnessed something similar. Their terrible premonition suddenly became a nightmarish reality.
Their joints became twisted, and fur began growing all over their bodies. Their large eyes were dyed yellow, and their canine teeth filled their gaping maw. Werewolves. The terrible nightmare once again faced the Blanche Plaza and filled them with despair.
People began fiercely pushing back towards the Blanche Plaza.
The six Werewolves bared their fangs and stepped forward. The Blanche Plaza had already gone as far back as they could and began to completely fracture in response to the pressure. The people in the front continued to push the ones behind them. And as everyone continued pushing one another, the Blanche Plaza completely unraveled before they could even start fighting.
“Hey! Mr. Yuhoon! What do we do now?”
The Preselected who had placed their trust in Yuhoon and stood at the front now looked towards him in despair.
“Let’s first calm down and escape to the sides. I’ll open us a path!”
Yuhoon gritted his teeth and began using all his strength to push away everyone that was blocking his way.
“What the fuck are you doing! You bitch!”
As someone dared to speak up about his aggressive behavior, he swung his blade without batting an eye. Blood splattered, and a man died. Yuhoon’s true, devilish nature revealed itself as people turned to him in surprise.
“Fuck off! I said fuck off! You wanna die? Huh, do you?”
People opened a path for this man whose eyes darted from side to side as he intimidatingly swung about his bloody blade. Unfortunately, cruel fate still headed his way despite his efforts to avoid it.
“I-it’s coming this way!”
The Werewolves ignored the crowds of people and headed directly towards Yuhoon and his group. Yuhoon weakly sat down as he realized the twelve eyes, filled with bloodlust, only had them in their sights.
A single man’s face appeared in his mind. The man with a mysterious identity. The man whose thoughts he couldn’t decipher. His outer appearance might have been shabby and his looks laughable, but he had been telling the truth. He didn’t know whether that man had been lucky or something, but…
‘I should’ve listened to that bastard.’
Those were his last thoughts as a Werewolf ran him through with its claw, and a set of ravenous teeth came from behind to tear apart his flesh.
Sunghae, who was watching the scene from a distance, couldn’t help but spit out profanity. It was for the Preselected. Within a moment, the Werewolves had made rags out of the Preselected and moved on to their next target.
There was something marked within the Werewolves’ sights. It was the remaining group of Preselected off in the distance, and it was searching the location of the target that had to be killed first.
The six Werewolves tore apart people between themselves and split the Blanch Plaza forces in half as they darted off towards the rear. They were headed towards Sungchul.
“Pro Kim! Pro Kim!”
Jungshik Park, holding his shield, repeatedly shouted out with a nervous voice.
“What’s wrong, Jungshik?”
“I…My heart feels like it shrank a size, can I run away now?”
“Hold it. You’ll calm down once you take a whiff of your butt.”
Saying that, Sungchul held his blade and stood to the left as if to protect Jungshik.
“Now, let’s hold it a bit longer. Once Ahram wakes up, he’ll kill all those low-grade Werewolves for us. We’ll just sit to the back and eat some rice cakes.”
Jungshik Park felt comforted for some unknown reason. He felt so comfortable that it felt as if he could never be killed if Sungchul was at his side. Even in his wildest dreams, he would never imagine that the person standing next to him was the strongest human…No. The strongest warrior in all of this world.
Sungchul swung his sword and shouted. Woojung and Sunghae fired off one after the other in coordination towards the Werewolves.
However, Werewolves were still Werewolves. They avoided the projectiles flying at them from the distance with ease and quickly arrived in front of Jungshik Park’s shield by dodging all the flying arrows and energy bolts.
One of the Werewolves swiped at the shield wall. Jungshik Park felt like he would fly off like a ball, but he narrowly kept his feet on the ground and held back the attack. Sungchul swung his blade and cut the Werewolf’s body after successfully blocking its attack. The Werewolf deftly retreated to dodge his blade, then growled with his teeth bared.
This time, two Werewolves stepped up. The rest of them slowly spread out and surrounded the shield wall. If not for the constant barrage of fire from Woojung and Sunghae, they would have attacked much more readily.
As Jungshik’s terror reached its peak, Sungchul grabbed his collar and pulled him back while he tossed something towards the Werewolves with his other hand. The blackened liquid was Ahram’s rotten blood.
With the scent of the blood scattered in the air, the Werewolves were once again reminded of Dolorence’s objective: Ahram Park. The existence which was behind the shield wall now stood exposed to them with no obstacles in their way.
Ahram continued to swing back and forth up until the Werewolves tore him to shreds. They tore him up so completely that not a single identifiable piece of him remained.
They didn’t notice that the fuel for Inextinguishable Fire which was hidden within Ahram’s corpse had splashed all over them. Sanggil, who had been watching from the Observation Tower, was filled with terror, while Dolorence had a smile filled with pride. Sungchul, his expression passive as always, suddenly appeared behind Woojung.
He quickly tied Woojung’s bolt with a cloth and rubbed the Golden Toadstool against the Alchemic Charcoal to set the cloth on fire. It was now a single-use flaming bolt.
Sungchul waved his sword as he quietly said,
Woojung pulled the trigger with his finger, and the flaming arrow flew towards the Werewolf that was tearing into Ahram’s corpse. The Werewolves agilely dodged the arrow, but when the arrow hit the floor, they couldn’t stop the fire from spreading onto their bodies.
The Werewolves were burned alive by the Inextinguishable Fire. First, their skin and fur, then even their eyeballs. Black smoke rose into the sky.
“Wow! Look at him!”
Jungshik Chun who had been watching from the rear now led his subordinates as though he had just been waiting for a signal.
“Let’s go! Let’s go kill everything!”
The landscape of the battlefield had changed. The moment the Werewolves, who had brought so much morale to the Azure Plaza, were burned alive was the moment the Blanche Plaza’s victory was more or less assured.