Like the passage of time forming wrinkles on the human skin, old buildings would also gain bone-chilling ghost stories; these were like badges of honor for the structure that has stood for several centuries. It might have been inevitable that the House of Recollections, a building that had been erected over a thousand years ago, would be as much the focus of numerous unexplained wonders as the countless students who had passed through these doors. Not many students remained within the academy, and the vital flow of new admissions looked to have run dry, but seven ghastly rumors circled within the House of Recollections.
The first wonder was regarding the immovable door at the end of the basement hallway. According to rumor, it was a room used as a prison before the House of Recollections had been renovated into a dormitory, and the room in question had been used as a sinister torture chamber similar to other prisons. It is said that many of those who were tortured to death became poltergeists, wandering within the chamber ever since. Sungchul now stood in front of the focus of the first of these stories: The Immovable Door at the Basement.
[On the night of the waxing crescent and upon the stroke of midnight, rust water will flow like blood through the cracks of the immovable door, and a quest will begin.]
There was a note from Christian inside Sungchul’s hand. He read over the note once again and waited for the rust water to flow from this infamous door.
After some time had passed, a dreary feeling crept into the air, and a slithering voice could be heard.
“Uh…. oo… oooo….”
It was a frightful wail, enough to make any weaker man form a beeline to the door.
“Can’t we… just turn back?”
Bertelgia, who appeared to be plenty scared, was dug deep into his pocket. On the other hand, Sungchul wasn’t bothered at all as he continued to observe the edges of this door. Bright red rust water soon began flowing from the door’s edges like blood.
Sungchul placed his hand upon the doorknob as though he had been waiting. There was a surprising chill that was surrounding it. He could see bright words appear from it soon after.
[What, pray tell, has compelled you to take hold of this doorknob?]
A list of choices followed.
Sungchul wanted to select the third option, but he chose the ideal answer as given to him by Christian, which was the first choice.
[Curiosity? Curiosity can be the flame of knowledge to brilliant mages, but be wary. Curiosity will often lead to death.]
Sungchul read through the words as he picked his ears.
After a moment, the rusty water, which had flowed out from the door, began to float up on its own and wrote out bright red words and symbols over the door as though it were written in blood.
[Answer me this: What is this magical formation trying to convey?]
There was only one purpose to the shape-shifting rust water: the examination of the challenger’s capabilities. It especially examined the intuition. Sungchul would not have been able to understand the shapes of the rusty water a week ago, but he wasn’t the same as before. He grasped the underlying pattern and meaning behind the dizzying motion of the rust water, and answered calmly.
As his voice rang out, the rusty water that had been dancing in the air burned away into nothingness, and another message appeared before him.
[You have the qualifications to enter the door.]
The door slowly began to open. What laid beyond this immovable door, feared by students as a torture chamber, now revealed itself to Sungchul. He felt slightly disappointed. There was a single devil tied down by metallic chains beyond the doors. It had a ram’s head and a bat’s wings, a human’s body, and a goat’s hooves. The devil had the identity of Baal.
He was known to be a grade higher than Barlog, but they had both met a similar fate without much difference to Sungchul’s hammer.
“Kekeke… a long awaited guest. You’ve come right in time. I was just about to grow bored of this and escape.”
The chained devil spoke. Upon closer observation, one of the devil’s eyes was blind, and his magic strength felt weak. He looked to have been captured after losing his strength due to a loss from a human or a devil.
Sungchul looked over the devil with uncaring eyes and spoke bluntly.
“… Let’s begin.”
A twisted smile formed on the devil’s lips and he laughed loudly. Dozens of chains that shackled his body shook with his every movement.
“A human with some spunk! Good. Let the Devil’s Game begin!”
A magical formation bloomed on the devil’s fingertips, and a single table appeared between them. A single die and three cups had been placed on top of the table. The devil turned the cup over and placed a die within before he began to mix the cups with experienced movements. Intrigue sparked in Sungchul’s eyes.
‘It’s a swindle.’
It had been written on Christian’s note that it would be a dice game, but Sungchul knew that it was a swindle.
“Now. The rules are simple. I’ll mix the cups, and you guess the location of the die. If you get the location correct, I’ll reward you.”
The Devil looked down upon Sungchul; arrogance in his eyes as he put forth his challenge.
“Do you accept?”
Sungchul nodded. As soon as he accepted, the devil’s hand that held the cups moved fluidly and tried to confuse the eyes. The die soon stopped, and the devil asked his question.
“Now. Which cup is holding the Die of Fate?”
It wasn’t a difficult question. Sungchul pointed towards the center cup. When the devil lifted the cup, it held the die.
“Pretty good. For a human, anyways. To be able to see through the great Crustes’s deception!”
The devil shook his fists as though he was frustrated. His chains shook violently and made a loud racket.
“However, a promise is a promise, so I’ll reward you.”
When the racket from the chains died down, the devil pointed his finger with a sharp nail shooting out towards Sungchul.
[What a great challenger! You have won the gamble against the devil Crustes!]
Reward: +1 Magic Power
As a devil, a race with a high affinity for magic, the reward wasn’t intuition but magic power. It was quite insufficient for a gamble against a devil, but there was more to come. Crustes smiled and spoke amiably.
“Truthfully, I made a mistake this time around. It’s been so long that my fingers got all twisted up. Why don’t you try again? This time, I’ll bet 2 of my magic power. Of course, you, a human, don’t have to bet anything.”
A tempting offer. There was no reason to refuse. Sungchul nodded once again, and the second game soon began. The results was another victory for Sungchul.
‘As expected, it’s just as Christian said.’
The devil imprisoned within the basement of the House of Recollections is one that had fallen to the human realm after being defeated during an internal fight amongst the devils within their realm. This devil, Crustes, was granted a secret space within the dormitory among students in exchange for helping mages, and led a pitiful life tricking students.
The devil’s methods weren’t that different from the traditional tricks that swindlers would use. He would lose a couple of games to the students to raise their greed and lower their guard before he devoured their souls through a single massive gamble.
[After the fourth game, please quickly escape from the room. The devil will get extremely upset, if you don’t!]
Christian warned him to only go as far as the fourth bet that didn’t require any risks for the student. It was because the devil would require the students to bet some of the earnings after the fifth game.
“How could such a human thing happen! For Crustes to lose four times consecutively!!!”
The metallic chains shook loudly without reservation, and the devil’s body trembled in anger.
“10 magic power. Let’s put 10 magic power on the line for the next gamble! I can’t let you leave like this!”
Sungchul had won exactly 10 magic power through the four matches. Even with the consideration that the stat was easy to raise due to its initially low number, but it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to call it a top tier reward for a common quest.
‘Rather than calling it a common quest, it looks as though this is just simple gambling like the devil had said.’
Quests are a collection of trials and rewards created by blessed beings with the permission of those who control the world; Gods and those who work on behalf of Gods. Those who created quests were referred to as the quest hosts, and the difficulty of the quest trials and the size of the rewards were relative to the strength of the quest host. Legendary existences, like that of the Seven Heroes, could create high-tier quests like objectives, but the lesser existences could only create quests that suited their level. However, this devil’s gamble had an excessive reward to be considered as a low-tier quest. This meant that this quest was not set up like other quests, and was created in a way that could harm the quest host depending on its results.
“Now! Human! Do you dare gamble for 10 magic power? If so, come and try your luck.”
If Sungchul managed to win, he could earn another 10 magic power. It was an opportunity to gain 20 magic power overnight with no particular effort involved on his part. However, the devil would never deal in such a losing bargain.
“However, Not even I can give away this much for free. I have bet thus far, and now you must bet something as well.”
“What do you want me to bet?”
When Sungchul asked, the devil spoke with a sinister smile.
“What else do you have to bet, other than your soul?”
It was easy enough up until now for anyone could choose the correct cup by paying a bit of attention to the devil’s sleight of hand. An ignorant person might have been drunk on his winnings and stepped into this formidable challenge not knowing that this temptation would be his destruction.
“I’ll do it.”
However, Sungchul entered the game with an entirely different mindset than the others who have all been sacrificed to the devil. He crossed his arms and activated his Soul Contract- Eye of Truth as he observed the devil.
The immovable door slammed shut. The room became dyed in a bloody hue. The devil smiled and laughed loud enough to blow off the roof.
“Shall we begin? Human? The final gamble, my 10 magic power or your soul?”
The devil’s hand that held the cups began to move. It was fast. It was a speed that was levels beyond the previous games as the die shot between the cups like a bullet, intending to confuse the eyes.
The devil broke into a lighthearted laughter, and he put in more speed. By the end, his hands and the cups began to move faster and faster until only the afterimage of it could be seen with the naked eye, and the wooden table began to burn from the sheer friction of his movements.
The hands stopped after some time while a portion of the table continued to burn. The devil looked down on Sungchul with his last remaining eye and oppressively asked him.
“Now, human. It is the time of destiny. Choose.”
The devil was laughing. It was impossible to choose correctly. It was because this was a gamble that couldn’t be won even if the Goddess of Fortune was smiling upon the human. The die was not in the cups, but rather it was hidden inside the devil’s grasp.
‘I’ll get to dine on a human soul after such a long time.’
The devil was licking his lips in anticipation as he hurriedly waited for the decision.
“Now, human! Why hesitate? I don’t have much patience, you know?”
At that moment, something the devil hadn’t anticipated occurred. Sungchul grabbed the devil’s wrist.
“Cease all movements.”
The last remaining eye of the devil shrank in terror.
He couldn’t move his hand. It was something that had never happened before. Despite his status as a fallen devil who had lost his former strength, he was still an existence whose strength couldn’t be compared to that of an average human, but now it had been overcomed so easily.
The devil’s hand felt like it was being crushed and he released his grip as he screamed in pain.
The die that had been hidden in his grip rolled onto the burning table.
‘W-what the… this bastard…’
The devil had finally realized it. The one who had been tricked in this gamble wasn’t the human, but rather himself. Sungchul stared at him with eyes that were more devilish than a devil’s and spoke firmly, using a heavy killing intent.
“Keep your promise, devil.”
“H-how could I refuse!”
Crustes gave up what few remaining magic power he had left to Sungchul. The message alerting of the quest’s success came up.
Reward: +10 Magic Power
Seeing that the message was blank, the devil himself must not have expected to lose the 5th gamble. Sungchul quietly spoke to the devil who was staring at him wide-eyed.
“The next time I come to find you, it will be your funeral day.”
The chains that held the devil shook weakly. Sungchul could feel the devil’s terror through the meek noises from the chains as he stood at the door. The immovable door swung open, and Sungchul checked his stats as he left through the door.
Strength 999+ Dexterity 853
Vitality 801 Magic Power 71
Intuition 58 Magic Resist 621
Resolve 502 Charisma 18
‘There are six remaining quests within the House of Recollections. I’ll tackle the Alchemy class books at the School of Alchemy during the day, and continue the quests inside the House of Recollections during the night. My time limit is a week. I’ll have to hit my goals within a week.’
It wasn’t a coincidence that Sungchul had managed to achieve such divine physical strength. He knew what he had to do to continue growing.