In essence, this was a buff for beginners. But the amount granted was outrageous. An average, healthy adult male would have a Strength stat of 6. What would happen if you added 10 to this number? Even the feeblest of women would suddenly exceed the normal physical limit of human anatomy.
Sungchul’s eyes revealed his surprise.
‘I’ve heard stories, but I never imagined that the Preselected would get this significant of an advantage.’
He was one of the original Summoned. Delicate dandies like the ‘Preselected’ hadn’t existed back then; everyone had to claw their way through depths of hell each day. He knew that everyone who made it out alive had done so by the merit of their own strength and their luck. In that way, it had been truly equal; those who lacked ability, died. What Sungchul had witnessed just now in this Cathedral threw the concept of a fair game out the window.
“Now! Now! Wake up! Great humans!”
They saw a pile of weapons and rations that had been prepared in front of the sarcophagi. There was a week’s worth of food, and weapons that were visually similar to the basic ones. Everyone looked confused, but Sungchul had already spotted the difference.
‘These are enchanted weapons.’
Physically identical weapons could have a drastically different performance with enchants. The impact of enchants was more drastic for lower-grade weapons like the ones they had been provided with at the start. These weapons were worlds apart from the ones the group was currently equipped with.
“Now now, humans! Throw away those trash weapons you are carrying, and take hold of these new weapons, please! These are ten times better!”
They hesitantly exchanged their old weapons for the new ones.
“Woah! They look the same, but I think the new ones seem better somehow.”
“Yeah, don’t they feel lighter…and stronger?”
The Drill Sergeant saw the delighted eyes of the group and spoke even louder with its usual grating voice.
“You selected few! You are protected! I, Drill Sergeant, shall dedicate myself to guiding every one of you in safely passing through the tribulations of this Summoning Palace!”
The members began relaxing and smiling after hearing these words. They had completely accepted the Homunculus’s words that they were the chosen ones.
“Everyone. We will soon return to the plaza! There is no need to fear! You have obtained a few powers beyond that of those trashy humans! Kekeke!”
The Drill Sergeant’s words bolstered the group’s pride. Laughter could be heard from the people, but Sungchul saw a faint light approaching the group. It was another lantern. This lantern was held by a single Homunculus who was leading a single person in this direction.
“Huuuuh? What’s that?” The Drill Sergeant revealed its razor-like teeth as it questioned the other Homunculus.
“Manager! There is another chosen human!”
“What? Chosen human…?!”
The Drill Sergeant’s eyes lit up with a crimson light.
“There are already twenty-five people here. What’s going on here, assistant?”
The Drill Sergeant began huffing and threateningly approached the smaller Homunculus before it replied fearfully.
“T-that is…The human said he needed to take a shit first, so he was late.”
“Shit…? Does that even make sense?”
The Drill Sergeant drew close to the newly arrived human and glared at him. He was a twenty-year-old male with a decent appearance and a balanced physique. He seemed to have an extremely friendly personality because he continued to smile despite the Drill Sergeant fuming before him. A few of the women took note of him.
“Anyways, it’s impossible! All the Buffs of the Martyrs and the overpowered weapons have already been distributed to the twenty-five people gathered here. Those who are tardy have no right to get anything!”
The Drill Sergeant crushed a candy while shaking its head in anger. However, the small Homunculus’ face now started to pale.
“B-but, Manager… this human…is not ordinary.”
“What do you mean? Assistant?”
“This human is someone directly chosen by the Order of the Iron Blood Knights’ Head Captain!”
“O-Order of the Iron Blood Knights?!”
The Drill Sergeant jumped up in surprise. It was so surprised that even the candy flew out of its mouth.
‘Order of the Iron Blood Knights, huh.’
Sungchul recognized the name. They were once the preeminent steward defenders of humanity against the demonic forces. But they fell to corruption and instead became the shield of the elites. An image of the Knight Captain’s stubborn face with graying beard flashed across Sungchul’s mind.
“Hey, you call yourself the Drill Sergeant, right? Don’t be so stiff; I haven’t really adjusted to this world yet.”
The tardy guy finally opened his mouth. There wasn’t a speck of him trying to confront the Drill Sergeant. He passed by the flabbergasted Drill Sergeant and began smiling while warmly shaking hands with the rest of the group.
“Hello, everyone! Sorry I’m late, my name is Ahram Park. As you can see, I am a ‘Preselected’ just like you all.”
It was an astounding display of self-confidence and adaptability. He had already understood his status within this new society and was now making full use of it. The man clearly knew that no matter what he said, the Drill Sergeant could not harm him.
The Drill Sergeant was shaking in rage, but it could only savagely chew an ever-increasing number of hard candies. The Drill Sergeant eventually addressed everyone other than Ahram.
“Among you, there is a bad boy that has deceived this Drill Sergeant. Please come forward now. Before this Drill Sergeant becomes very angry.”
The people in the group continued looking at each other and exchanged gazes filled with suspicion. Sungchul met two distinct gazes himself. They were the hip-hop boy and the brand-name girl he noticed from earlier.
“Isn’t it that person?”
“I think so too.”
The two eventually stood before Sungchul
The Hip-hop boy took on an aggressive tone with Sungchul.
“It’s you, isn’t it? Everyone can see that.”
Sungchul laughed to himself as the kid glared at him with arrogant eyes.
‘I guess I must look like I’m a pushover.’
The Drill Sergeant’s grating voice once again punched at their ears.
“Hey, you. Why did you raise your hand?”
Drill Sergeant was looking at Yuhoon Lee.
“Are you confessing that you’re the rat?”
Yuhoon’s shoulders fell away at the Drill Sergeant’s murderous tone.
“Then why did you raise your hand?”
“I’m not sure of the exact circumstance, but if I understand correctly, someone among us isn’t a Preselected, is that right?”
The Drill Sergeant nodded. Yuhoon, with a voice markedly more pleasant than the Drill Sergeant’s, continued speaking softly towards the crowd.
“The one guiding me has provided a wonderful suggestion. We could reveal the name of our Guides.”
A very simple, but effective method. There was an Observer’s Eye above all of the Preselected. The Observer’s Eyes were limited to transmitting the Mage’s telepathy to only their assigned candidates and were invisible to one another. But this wouldn’t matter if their candidate were to verbally relay the information. Only the Preselected would be able to answer this question. There was no possibility that someone could reason themselves out of this.
“For reference, the name of the person guiding me is Leonis!”
Yuhoon was the first to announce his Guide, which was the conservative and smart choice.
The Drill Sergeant, who had been shaking in rage, quickly started smiling grotesquely.
“There, human! Truly brilliant! You have earned points in this Drill Sergeant’s books! That is a great honor!”
Yuhoon simply scratched his head and smiled sheepishly.
Sungchul questioned the claim that the idea Yuhoon proposed came from the Guide; thick-headed interns wouldn’t be able to think up such an idea on the fly like that.
“My Guide’s name is Dolores Winterer. She says she is on a different level than average Mages!”
Ahram followed up with a raucous laughter. The Drill Sergeant ignored him and continued asking down the line.
“Human, your Guide’s name?”
One by one, the group revealed their Guides’ names, and the smaller Homunculus followed behind the Drill Sergeant and recorded them on a sheepskin. When half the group was done, the young pair standing beside Sungchul started glaring at him once more.
“Hey, hobo. Trying to bounce now? That monster is going to split you in half when it finds out you clowned him, ya know.”
“Is that right?”
Sungchul replied calmly. However, he wasn’t looking at the kid, he was actually focusing on the Observer’s Eye above him.
‘Should I try taking that…?’
It was just a simple construct; its telepathy was probably automatically directed to the closest individual.
“Then I’ll go before you,” said Sungchul and as he spoke, his right hand moved; it moved at a speed faster than anyone could see and grabbed the Observer’s Eye above the man’s head.
-Don’t fight with other Preselected…Don’t fight…-
Telepathy flowed in. It was a pathetic quality of telepathy that sounded weak and distant.
“Why are you standing in front of me?”
The man, who hadn’t even realized that his Observer’s Eye had been stolen, continued to glare at Sungchul. Sungchul feigned weakness and lowered his gaze, to which the man smirked victoriously.
“Can’t wait to die, can you? I won’t stop you.”
The brand-name girl and the kid continued chattering behind him. It was as though they were celebrating Sungchul’s imminent death. However, they could never imagine that his hand was currently wrapped around something.
-Why does everything look so strange…What…is there a problem…?-
Primitive telepathy from the Observer’s Eye continued buzzing in. Sungchul quietly reflected on this new revelation about the Preselected.
‘Now that I think about it, none of these people actually ever talked to the Observer’s Eye.’
His gaze fell on the distant Drill Sergeant and the woman in front of it.
“Elipas…is the name.”
The woman, and even Yuhoon, never muttered to themselves but were still able to respond quickly to the question. That could only mean there was another method of communicating to the Mage; a very strong mental thought.
‘What is your name?’
Sungchul leaked a concise and strong thought through the Observer’s Eye. A reply soon followed.
-Didn’t I tell you before…? My name is Krill…Krill Regall…-
Krill Regall. As soon as he heard the name, Sungchul threw the Observer’s Eye into the air. It didn’t go far before a small explosion happened followed by a splattering of blood, but no one was able to see this. Now it was Sungchul’s turn.
“Umm…the human with colorful clothing! State the name of your guiding Mage!”
The Drill Sergeant revealed its razor teeth and demanded an answer.
“Krill. Krill Regall.”
The hip-hop man’s face crumbled at the mention of that name.
“What…What did you say?”
It was only natural to be surprised. It was the name he was going to give. However, the Drill Sergeant wasn’t interested in fair trials or figuring out who was truly guilty. It stood indifferently before the man whose Guide’s name was stolen and demanded an answer.
“Hey you! Human with earrings! State your guiding Mage’s name!”
The hip-hop boy was soaked in cold sweat. He finally pointed at Sungchul and began shouting.
“That fucker! He said my Mage’s name!”
The Drill Sergeant and the small Homunculus with the paper and pen both tilted their heads.
“No…shit. That fucker! He said my Mage’s name before I could! Krill Regall was mine!”
There was no one here, no Homunculi, who was willing to listen to him. The Drill Sergeant lifted the hip-hop boy by the collar with its pudgy hands.
“Got him! The rat! I finally found the criminal!”
“No…! It’s not me!”
Sungchul looked indifferently at the boy being dragged off, and quietly raised his middle finger. Finally, the boy understood what had just transpired, but by now it was much too late.
The boy was soon torn apart by the hands of two Homunculi. His pitiful screaming rang eerily throughout the Forsaken Cathedral.