The homunculi gathered around the survivors and began counting their numbers.
“How many of the trash survived? At a quick glance… Keke! Around 1500?”
Among the homunculi, there was one that was abnormally large. He wore a white hat and as the leader of the homunculi he called himself the Drill Sergeant. All of the homunculi gathered around him.
“There are exactly 1534 heads!”
“Tsk! Not even reduced by half? Such a disappointment, however, I am a benevolent homunculus.”
The Drill Sergeant’s tone was not only shrill and cracked, but also loud, so it had no problems reaching its audience. It sounded unpleasant, but it still bore through into the ears. Sungchul also had to listen to his voice.
‘Is it the same guy from 25 years ago? He’s still alive.’
The Homunculi usually lived short lives. Not only were they treated harshly by their masters, they were often also cannibalized by their fellows. It seems that this homunculus had used his large stature to survive for this long.
“Now! Now! Trashy humans! This gracious Drill Sergeant shall bestow a great benevolence upon you. This is a week of rest! Please use this week well to adjust to this new world!”
The homunculi filed out after the Drill Sergeant.
This announcement snapped the people into conversation.
“W-where is this? Just where is this?”
“My phone… There is no signal, not even wifi.”
“This is a dream… it has to be a dream…”
Most of the summoned tried to conform to their surroundings so that they could preserve their sanity. So meaningless, the smart ones will approach the problem realistically and tackle it a step at a time.
‘This week isn’t a gift, but a death sentence.’
There were no rations or water in this place. Only people. Other than the wall protecting them from the demonic creatures, there were no merits to staying in this place. People would have to venture beyond the walls to survive. Or they would have to eat other people.
Sungchul stuck with the crowd and observed the situation. A short while later, a few people started to move. They moved in a way that could be considered erratic in the eyes of a normal person. Some circled the plaza and others pretended to swing a blade in the air. Normally people would think that they had lost it, but Sungchul saw things differently. There was an Observer’s Eye on top of each one of these ‘lunatics’ without exception. They were getting their instructions through the summoner, and being taught how to survive through the situation. While others were frozen in inactivity, these small quests would quickly add up and make a critical difference in the end. There were also some proactive normal people.
“Excuse me. Are you by yourself?”
A middle-aged man in a ragged suit made his way through the crowd to form a group. He had worked through everyone who had ignored him, insulted him, or refused him to gather ten people. Watching that man, Sungchul began recalling an old memory.
‘Thinking back there are those kinds too. Spouting annoying nonsense like, ‘a bundle of sticks is harder to break’ to gather people.’
A particular woman’s silhouette came into mind and his eyes grew cold. But there was no more time for him to soak in the past. Sungchul quickly followed the group of twenty walking past the plaza walls. There was one person in the background who thoughtlessly called out to him.
Sungchul’s eyes slid over to the voice.
“Got any cigs?”
Sungchul didn’t even bother acknowledging him any further.
Past the walls, there was a forest deeply steeped in demonic energy that was awaiting them. It was home to the demonic creatures. Those with the Observer’s Eye were the first who dared to cross the barrier. They weren’t just the average ‘pre-selected’ either, if one were to look at their large number.
‘They must have the backing of a large guild.’
The Summoning Palace was a neutral faction under the protection of the God of Order.
Any single group with power wouldn’t be allowed to freely abuse their authority. To influence the Palace, it would require greasing every palm and that would be no small sum of wealth. It would take a major faction to bring several dozen officials under their sway. All of these points meant that this group was exactly what Sungchul had been looking for. He nonchalantly slipped into their group. The younger men and women gave him a glance before ignoring him completely.
In this awkward silence, two more people joined the group.
“25 people… I think that’s everyone.”
A stylish man in a suit was the first to speak out; everyone focused their attention on him. It must have been nerve-wracking, but he still continued calmly.
“I apologize if I seem forward, but that’s just how it is. My name is Yuhoon Lee.”
He received a reasonable response from the group. Everyone other than a squinty-eyed man with bleached hair seemed to welcome his attempt at breaking the ice. Yuhoon continued to direct the crowd after gaining their approval.
“Can everyone hear their guide’s voice?”
Everyone’s head nodded in response.
Sungchul also calmly nodded his head and continued to observe their Observer’s Eye. There were slight differences in their shapes. It represented each individual summoner’s magic. At this moment, Sungchul’s eyes flashed with a strange light.
‘Some annoying magicians are involved this time. They probably tapped into their candidate’s sight and hearing.’
However, the magicians that Sungchul was involved with usually had ‘High Rank’ attached to their titles. The necromancers he would chase down on his average day could conjure up thousands of undead on their own. Compared to magicians of their caliber, these summoners would be apprentices at best.
‘Not bad. I should stick with these guys.’
By Sungchul’s expectation, there would be hidden quests attached to the training course prepared for these 24 people.
“First off, my guide has notified me that time is very precious. There is no time for us to dawdle. After a brief introduction, I believe we should quickly move on with whatever our guides have directed us to do.”
Yuhoon approached the people around him first, casually introduced himself and enticed a friendly atmosphere. No one approached Sungchul, and that was because of his unkempt appearance. It was extremely difficult to obtain decent clothes in the Other World, much less stylish ones. He had tried relatively hard, but he currently only wore some worn out military fatigues like some sort of homeless veteran. He also hadn’t had any hygiene products with which to wash for a while now, so he didn’t smell too great either.
The teenager in hip-hop clothing and the 20s something women covered in brand-name products spoke with their backs towards him. It was a clear sign of rejection.
Sungchul didn’t particularly mind. There were no benefits in him caring about that, all he wanted were the hidden quests. However, someone noticed him from afar and approached him.
“Hey mister, why are you standing here alone?”
He looked up wondering who it might have been. It was Lee Yuhoon. He spoke with a wide smile maintaining eye contact and a hand outreached for a shake.
‘What a trained courtesy.’
He had dealt with a lot of people before. A clear instinct told him that Yuhoon might not be as friendly as he appears, but he accepted the handshake anyways.
“Just Kim. Please call me Kim.”
“Then, we’ll have to compromise with using Mister Kim.”
When introductions ended, an eerie glow emitted from deep within the forest. The group slowly gathered together and turned towards the light.
It was a familiar laugh. Not unexpectedly, a homunculus revealed himself from the darkness. The glow was coming from the lantern he held in his hand.
“You have already gathered here, humans!”
Sungchul recognized this homunculus by his voice.
He was significantly larger than the average homunculus, and also revealed a significantly more sinister set of razorlike teeth as he greeted the group. He stood at the height of everyone’s stomachs, but they all understood just how savage and powerful this midget-like creature could be. How could they dare look down on the larger Drill Sergeant?
The Drill Sergeant reveled in the humans’ fears and smiled gleefully as he looked over them.
“Do not fear, please! Humans! This Drill Sergeant is but a smart homunculus! I have senselessly killed those trashy humans, but to the selected few, I will be willing to grant a service..”
The Drill Sergeant tottered back through the forest with his lantern in hand.
“Follow closely, please! Humans! You might just die to some monsters if you fall behind! Kekeke!”
Everyone stood flabbergasted at this situation.
“I think we can follow him. That’s what my voice is telling me.”
Yuhoon lead the way in following after the homunculus. The others also followed after their impromptu leader helplessly. Only two people stayed in their place.
“Ah, shit. I really don’t like that bitch.”
The Yankee spat out a quick bit of profanity before following. Sungchul quietly moved after him.
The homunculus lead the group to an abandoned cathedral. On top of the cathedral’s steeple there stood a rectangular ornament, this was the symbol for the God of Order. The God of Order was one of the five gods that ruled over the pantheon.
“Come in, please! Humans!”
The Drill Sergeant stepped in first. The rectangular ornament filled with a strange light as he stepped into the cathedral.
“Woah… What? This…” disparate words of admiration spilled out from the group.
There were sarcophagi with open lids within the cathedral. There were 25 in total.
“Now. Now. Humans! Don’t dawdle and step into whichever one that suits your fancy, please!” Homunculus spoke with a smirk.
One by one, everyone eventually began lying within the sarcophagi. Kim Sungchul also found one somewhere in the middle and laid down. The sarcophagi began levitating with power, and the lids closed shut on its own. They could clearly see bright letters floating within the suffocating darkness that surrounded them.
[You have found the martyr’s sarcophagi and laid down with resolute hearts.]
[Determination of the martyr uplifts your body.]
Effect: +10 Strength, Dexterity, Vitality (Region Restriction: Summoning Palace)