One night, everyone experienced the same dream as God’s curse swept through the land. From that moment on, not even a single child’s laughter could be heard. The Curse of Extinction. This calamity was interpreted as one of the harbingers of the End. It brought an incurable illness that killed every child born in the cursed land. It didn’t discriminate between the rich or poor, strong or weak, noble or otherwise, and killed everyone impartially as all were equal in the face of unrelenting death.
“So, is the kid doing well?”
Captain of the Order of the Iron Blood Knights, Sungtek Jo.
Leader of what used to be the ’Strongest Order in the Continent’, and currently one of the three most powerful individuals in the Northern Regions. He had lost every single child born in this world to the curse of Extinction. The offspring that had been left behind in the Old World was now his final hope.
The reports which made its way to him claimed that the son, who bore his mother’s name, was doing quite well. With his natural leadership, he had led by example and displayed remarkable bravery to his people in the Rank Matches. He had even managed to strike down the Tam Tam that was usually known as the nightmare of Rank Matches. When he heard that the son who just arrived in Other World, from whom he never really had hoped much, was doing so well, he couldn’t help but devote his attention to him.
“…Your son is doing quite well. The other side managed to prepare six Werewolves for the Rank Match this time, but he managed to overcome them with a clever strategy. Haha, who would have thought of it? To use the Alchemist class for this.”
Sanggil reported from the other side of a scrying orb.
“Is that right? For them to release six Werewolves…Who’s backing the other side that’s using such scummy methods?”
It was difficult for a Summoned to find a way to become a Werewolf within the Summoning Palace. So six showing up at the same time was nothing short of impossible.
Sanggil began speaking again, with a meeker voice.
“That is…it’s the Black Division.”
“Black Division? You’re saying this is Shamal’s doing?”
Sungtek’s half-white brow shot up. Sanggil felt like he was swimming against sewage.
“T-that is…not verified. We are just speculating at this point.”
“Yeah? I mean it’s one thing if William did it, but Shamal would never do something like this. I’ll go talk to Shamal personally.”
“I-it’s not verified yet…I don’t think there’s a reason to bother anyone.”
“No, didn’t you say that Ahram was a great kid? I might not have raised him, but he’s still my blood. If he has this much potential, I can gladly lower my head and ask for favors.”
Sungtek waved his arms as he stood up from his chair. The brightly lit scrying orb slowly faded.
On the other side of the scrying orb, Grand Knight Sanggil wiped the sweat from his forehead and collapsed onto his chair. A fiery-haired female Mage revealed herself from the shadows from behind him.
“Sir Grand Knight, don’t concern yourself so much. It has already gone this far; we’re in the same boat now.”
Sanggil had almost lost all of his Preselected in the previous match. Even Ahram, who he had to protect no matter what was not an exception to this. He had been driven into a corner, and Dolorence had slithered in front of him like a viper.
“I gave a false report as you told me to for now. Now…what should we do, Dolorence Winterer?”
Sanggil brushed his hands across his face in his anguish and spoke in a pained voice.
“It’s not that there aren’t any solutions, Sir Grand Knight. Don’t we still have a card left to play?”
“What is it? What is this card you speak of?”
Sanggil desperately raised his head and stared pleadingly into her eyes. She paused for a beat before answering.
“If my guess is correct, the Knight Captain doesn’t know his son’s face. I haven’t seen a Magic Print Maker drop by even once.”
“I told him vaguely how the boy looks.”
“What did you tell him?”
“That he’s good looking and quite handsome…”
Hearing his words, Dolorence broke into a mischievous smile.
“Then that settles it.”
“Have someone substitute for him. Someone similar. All parents think their children are the most handsome anyways. Don’t they say that even ogres think their babies are cute?”
“…Are you for real? Have a stand-in? It’ll all be over once the Captain and the replacement meet.”
A small portion of Sanggil’s suppressed rage peeked out.
“Who says we’ll let them meet? Just kill the stand-in, and it’ll be ok. Have you forgotten that the next Rank Match is the last one?”
“Kill him…at the Rank Match? The stand-in…?”
With great difficulty, Sanggil’s dense mind began to catch up to her vision for the narrative. She smiled a sympathetic smile and continued with her story.
“We’ll make him a hero. A hero that fought alone against overwhelming odds and died alone. Understand that it is the Scarlet Plaza that is coming up next.”
“Scarlet Plaza…You mean the very Scarlet Plaza that is being handled by the Assassin Guild?”
“Yes. Luck is on our side.”
Sanggil finally understood the entirety of her plan. He swallowed deeply and spoke in a hushed voice.
“War would erupt between the Order of the Iron Blood Knights and the Assassin’s Guild after this.”
“That could be. But, is a war as important as Sir Grand Knight’s life?”
Sanggil suddenly glared at her blunt question, but he couldn’t reprimand her. In the eyes of Krill, who was watching from a distance, Sanggil seemed completely constricted by the snake that was Dolorence.
‘So great, Dolorence Sunbae…I doubted you, but to even manage to toy with the proud Grand Knight…Great…Really great…!!’
After she had finished making Sanggil yield, Dolorence approached Krill and spoke to him in a relatively friendly tone.
“Did you see all that? Underclassman? For nameless people like us to spread our name as Mages, we can’t stop at anything. We have to use everything at our disposal.”
“Amazing. Really…Amazing, Sunbae.”
Krill genuinely bowed to Dolorence. He couldn’t help but do so. Her opponent was someone who was one of the top ten most influential members, Grand Knight Sanggil Ma. He was someone that Dolorence would usually never dare speak to. Not just anyone could ignore this stark difference and include them into their treacherous scheme through the sheer force of their will.
‘If I could learn under this person…maybe even my degrading life could…maybe it could open up…!’
The ill-will he had for her was already long gone. Krill voluntarily poured Dolorence some alcohol. She smirked and then wet her lips with the strong alcohol before lightly licking it off with her tongue. She looked around the observatory before speaking quietly.
“I need a stand-in. Ideally, try to find me a Preselected or someone that stands out for the job. I would normally have sent the Drill Sergeant, but for some reason, I can’t seem to reach her.
Dolorence stared up at Krill.
The memory of a person that he had briefly forgotten popped up. The shabby appearance of a wild-looking man that looked ragged.
‘That person. I wonder who he is.’
The man was no longer an essential existence as Sanggil no longer requested for bribes. In contrast, this man was now a liability as he knew Krill’s weakness, just like Dolorence knew of Sanggil’s.
“Ah. One more thing.”
Dolorence called out as Krill was about to leave.
“There’s someone that’s been getting on my nerves.”
“Who’s bothering you?”
“There is a woman who picked up the staff I gave to Ahram. It bothers me more that I don’t know her name. It bothers me a lot.”
Dolorence threw her shot glass towards the ground. Krill could hear her slithering voice as the glass shattered into pieces.
“You want to work for me, right?”
His heart froze at her words. His breath caught in his throat.
“If you want to learn under me, then prove your worth.”
“My w-worth? How…?”
“I don’t like it. You are trying to act naive when you already know the answer.”
Her smile disappeared. It was as she’d said. Krill already knew what she was asking him for.
The fierce battle had ended. The survivors digested that the long and tiring Rank Match had ended as they looked at the message that appeared before them. Sungchul stared into the air as he wiped the blood off his blade.
[The Third Rank Match has ended.]
[Blanche Plaza has killed 452 people.]
[Blanche Plaza sustained 242 casualties.]
[You are ranked in First Place among the four Plazas]
His desired goal had been accomplished. He waited for the next message to appear.
[Overall rewards are adjusted by the rankings.]
[You have killed 7 people (Outside your Rank).]
[Your Contribution is 9.2%.]
[You have been rated for S grade rewards.]
- 12x Palace Token
- 1x Bottle of Wine
- 1x Week of Ration
- Brass Breastplate
- Knight’s Gauntlet
- 2x Healing Potion
- Warrior Class Transfer Tome
Please Select Two.
They were adequate rewards. The appearance of Warrior Class Transfer Tome signaled that the final days of the Summoning Palace was drawing close. Sungchul chose the Brass Breastplate and the two healing potions. The Knight’s Gauntlet would be more effective than the two items he’d chosen if they were used properly, but he chose to prioritize ease of use. In any case, they were all useless to him.
He’d taken care of seven people during this Rank Match. It was two more than the bare minimum for an A-grade reward. It was incomparable to Jungshik and Ahmuge, who sat at the top with over thirty kills, but he’d managed to reach S-grade with his contributions. Everyone who had participated in killing the Werewolves had received S-grade rankings. Woojung was also acknowledged as having personally killed a Werewolf and got the coveted SS rank. So Sungchul had nothing to complain about.
It was the best results he could have hoped for. He hadn’t stood out, yet had done just enough to reach his goal to earn a large amount of Palace Tokens.
‘I managed to get a hold of thirty-seven Tokens. There isn’t much more to go.’
The daily common quests would also come to an end. They would get him eight Palace Tokens, which was all that he needed to acquire the Echo Mage class.
Ahmuge approached him after the battle had ended. He felt her properly this time, but she was a woman with a weak presence; it was difficult to notice her without concentrating first.
“Why are you looking at me like that?”
The number of Summoned she had managed to kill was sixty-four. She scored the highest of all of the Summoned. Her innate skill with the sword was a major factor, but the aggressive use of Spirit Wolf staff allowed her to quickly raise her kill score and bypass Jungshik by at least 10 points.
“Why did you come find me?”
She replied softly with a mysterious smile at his question.
“I came to keep our promise from a while back.”
“The hidden quest relating to Magic Power?”
“Yes. I’m sure it’ll be to your liking.”
He could raise his Magic Power to his desired amount with common quests within the Summoning Plaza, but if he considered the future, he also needed to do more than that. He would need a considerably larger amount of Magic Power to contend with the Demon Lord Hesthnius Max.
Sungchul was prepared to use every opportunity he could find.
“Okay. Lead the way.”
Ahmuge led him beyond the Palace walls and deep into the forest. It looked as though she had visited the place more than once as the woods were overgrown with no clear signs which made it very easy to get lost in here.
“Do you perhaps have the Alchemist class?”
Ahmuge asked as she brushed past the trees.
“Didn’t we agree not to ask about each other?”
“Of course, but it left quite an impression on me. I never imagined that an Alchemist class’s ability, the one they call a trap class, could be used to resolve that disaster.”
Sungchul didn’t answer. Ahmuge saw his thick face and her eyes curled up in laughter.
“To tell you the truth, I was going to give you a relatively ordinary hidden quest. But when I saw how strong you were, I changed my mind. I have a debt to repay to you, so I prepared a top tier quest.”
There was a small pond at the end of the forest; at its center was the statue of a bowing angel. Ahmuge pointed at the statue and said,
“The quest will begin when you touch that statue. You’ll earn rewards based on the difficulty you choose. However, be careful. If the difficulty you chose is too high, you’ll die no matter how strong you are.”
“Is that so?”
Sungchul looked back at Ahmuge and headed towards the statue. She sat at the edge of the pond and spoke brightly.
“I’ll give you three hours. If you don’t come out by then, I’ll assume you’re dead. Come back by yourself if you manage to survive past that time.”
Sungchul walked towards the statue without a word.
The moment he put his hands on the statue of the bowing angel, bright letters appeared before him.
[The Forgotten Path of the Seven Heroes – Sajators.]
Sungchul’s eyes reflected his surprise.