It’s been four days since the mass summoning, and an unpleasant energy was circling the Blanche plaza. 1500 people were busy stewing in the stench of rotting flesh without any food or water. There were no conversations, just constant glares from across the plaza.
The sound of plastic rustled from one corner of the plaza. Several hundred pairs of eyes shot towards the man that was pulling something from his clothes. It was just an empty cigarette carton.
“Anyone… Anyone have some cigs…?”
The man kept asking with hollow eyes even as his voice was growing taut. A few of the men standing nearby spat out profanities as they started beating him up. Nobody tried to stop them, not even his pitiful screams could stir up any sort of reaction.
After the beating was finished, the man kept on uttering as he lay on the ground.
Sungchul unconsciously recognized the face. It was the face of the idiotic kid who had asked for some cigs on the first day. Looking at the kid’s crooked nose and his bruised eyes, he calculated that the kid probably had two more days left at most. It would be difficult for him to make it past the day. His spirit looked to be even more dead than his body was.
Sungchul only thought about how this would be the best outcome, then refocused on his objectives.
‘In the end, I didn’t manage to find any hidden quests.’
There weren’t any more gatherings of the Pre-selected after they left the forsaken cathedral. It was completely beneath his expectations; he had hoped that at least some individual pre-selected would be called away, but none of them had moved. The most he could do was take notice of how they would gather during the day.
They had claimed the northern corner of the plaza and the training center within. The preselected were inside, training with the practice and spinning dummies. There were also ordinary people who were pointing at and mocking them as if they were lunatics.
“Tsk tsk. There’s nothing to eat, and they’re just wasting their energy. They’re just asking for death.”
“They gone crazy is all. Those idiots.”
These people were just ignorant. The preselected would quickly grow strong inside the training center.
“Haha, the sound of your fist on the dummy is becoming crisp! How much strength do you have now?”
“22 now. The sound’s changed after I’ve hit 20.”
“I haven’t hit 20 yet. I gotta try harder myself!”
The small yet distinct gap was starting to widen. This would become a critical factor to them during the future crisis.
Sungchul thoughtlessly punched a dummy in the corner of the training center and continued with his eavesdropping. There were two people worth taking notice of in this group.
Lee Yuhoon: A natural-born leader, who would charm any person with his wit and his calm voice that even an announcer would envy.
And then Park Ahram: He had arrived conspicuously even on his first day, and revealed himself to be backed by one of the most powerful factions. He had already proven his authority over the Drill Sergeant. He was more noteworthy than the former, with his powerful background, the chances of him being granted a hidden quest was quite large. The problem was, Ahram seemed to be more interested in his sexual conquests than in any sort of hidden quest.
“Do you have a boyfriend? It looks like you might have one… but maybe not anymore? Keke”
He didn’t even pretend to be training, he avoided any form of labor, including hitting the dummies. He became even more of a bother with his endless supply of pickup lines. The women who were interested at first due to his powerful supporter and mysterious entrance quickly turned him away due to his lecherous and flighty attitude.
“Ah… why does everyone hate me? It’s a short life anyway, I might as well enjoy it while I can.”
He was eventually turned away by all of the preselected women and now turned to women outside of the group. Their faces all looked tired and despondent, but some still retained their former beauty. He began drooling lecherously as he held his rations under his arms.
“Ah… what should I do? What am I to do?”
Sungchul thought that he looked as though he was an animal in heat, who had been stuck in a pit and realized he would likely cause an accident soon. Sungchul didn’t have to wait for long, Ahram left with a pretty young thing beyond the wall, but he only returned alone. Only Sungchul knew what had really transpired.
Within an isolated area covered in foliage, there was the corpse of a naked woman. Sungchul acknowledged it with indifferent eyes. There was a distinct handprint around her neck region. She had died from asphyxiation. The most incriminating piece of evidence was the slight bit of blood and skin embedded underneath her nails. There was a portion of ration next to the body, as though mocking the victim.
‘What a broken person.’
He had felt that Ahram was twisted from the start, but being granted so much authority so quickly, this was inevitably going to happen. Who knows how many more would be sacrificed. It was now up to him to use this opportunity to clean things up.
‘I need to set up some sort of special experience for him and his guide.’
Sungchul closed her eyes that were frozen in fear, and quietly whispered under his breath.
“May you find happiness in the afterlife.”
He turned towards the dark forest, and the hidden danger from within stared back at him.
After sundown, the preselected would gather beyond the walls to eat their food while sitting on the forest floor. The rations they’d been provided by the Drill Sergeant only contained stale bread and a small bead that would turn into a mouthful of water when placed in your mouth. It wasn’t tasty, but it was still something precious. They were the only ones among the 1500 that would be able to eat something in this week. Sungchul sat a distance away from the group, but he was still listening to their conversations.
“What did you do before?”
“College. I was still attending when I was suddenly dragged here.”
“Same here. I’m a college student as well.”
“Oh, is that right? What major?”
“I was a music major.”
That was the brand-name girl. People tended to talk more during their meals. Conversation acted to close the gaps in people’s hearts and could bolster a person’s spirits even in situations like these. All conversations stopped when a group of three drew near.
The preselected exchanged glances with each other. They were murderous glances from which a plan for senseless murder began formulating without a single word needing to be uttered.
“Wow, there really is food here!”
The man could only exclaim briefly before he fell silent, as though someone had suddenly sealed his mouth. Obnoxious chewing sounds could be heard.
Crunch. Smack. Chew.
The sound dissipated, and the uninvited guests licked their lips longingly before leaving.
“What was that.”
“I don’t know.”
The preselected became tense, they were filled with murderous intent but resumed their meal alongside their interrupted conversations. No one had noticed Sungchul’s involvement.
Sungchul kept a crimson slime wedged under a heavy rock and within his sight. Its name was ‘Blood Pudding’, it was usually a green herbivore that was about the size of an adult woman, but during its mating season, it would turn extremely aggressive and start devouring everything in sight. The problem though was that this species’ mating ritual had rarely been seen.
Sungchul lightly pushed away the rock holding the slime in place. Freed it from its binding, the slime leapt aggressively towards Sungchul.
The Blood Pudding exploded with a single punch.
“Feeling brave are you, punk?”
Sungchul spoke icily towards the slimy crimson silhouettes deeper in the forest. Several hundred Blood Puddings resided within the forest, but the naked woman’s carcass had lured some of them into this pit. Sungchul kept them completely suppressed within this pit. Two more tried jumping out.
The results were no different, a dozen tried by jumping simultaneously before their crimson slime splattered everywhere from the soundwaves. Dozens of blood puddings exploded. This was essentially a genocide, the blood puddings of the forest were at a risk of extinction.
Sungchul divided the blood puddings in half, and one-half of them ran past him. They instinctively felt fearful of him, Sungchul covered the corpse in the pit with dirt by using his feet and noted the direction the blood puddings were heading in.
“Hm? What is this?”
The preselected only discovered the blood puddings after the uninvited people had left. A few men who had grown bored after having their meals began approaching the blood puddings.
-D… danger… run…
As they approached the blood pudding, the Observer’s Eye began transmitting the magician’s warnings. However, it was too late, the stationary blood puddings suddenly jumped into the air and swallowed one of the men.
The man’s clothing slowly started being digested by the blood pudding’s digestive fluid.
“Hey! Let me go!”
The man next to him tried attacking the blood pudding with his blade, but it was to no avail. A slime’s constitution made them impervious to physical attacks, which made it very difficult for newcomers to handle.
The man’s face being dissolved within the digestive fluid, was clearly visible from outside the slime’s transparent body.
The man abandoned the blade and fled the scene.
The rest of the group finally realized that something must have happened, and quickly rose from their meal. However, by now the forest had already been filled with crimson slimes. The preselected finally felt fear within their hearts. Only Ahram still didn’t fully understand the situation.
“What? What happened?”
They abandoned Ahram with his ignorant smile and scattered into the forest exit. Ahram figured something was up and started to get up. His eyes caught the man sitting with his back towards him. The man was wearing ragged jeans with military fatigues.
‘Ah, that smelly loner bitch.’
“Hey, Mister. What happ-?”
His vision suddenly turned yellow. When he awoke, he was surrounded by wildly growing grass and could feel the dirt on the ground.
He couldn’t remember what had happened. However, he did feel a sharp pain coming from his ankles.
“AAAAUGH! Shit! What the fuck!”
Something had broken his ankle. He barely managed to lift himself, when countless blood puddings came rushing in his direction.
The Blood Pudding’s slick body crawled up on Ahram’s sneakers.
Ahram began foaming at the mouth and lost his consciousness at the sight of his sneakers being dissolved from the acid.
At that moment, a magic inscription appeared.
From the seal, a lightly dressed woman appeared and swung her staff. Her hair was red, but her eyes were frosty.
“Damn it. For me to be stuck with such an annoying bastard.”
The young woman spat on to Ahram’s face and continued swinging her staff. The destructive blizzard of frost decimated the blood puddings.
“Haaa… What do I do with this son of a bitch? It’s not like I can kill him.”
The woman in question looked at Ahram with an annoyed expression and disappeared after shoving a healing potion down his throat. It was the epitome of a hit-and-run, but despite her best efforts, there was one person who had still witnessed everything from start to finish.
His name was none other than Kim Sungchul.
‘Dolorence Winterer. She must be at least a mid grade magician.’
The number of trained magicians were lacking, in turn, they also received better treatment. Mid-rank magicians would be able to even manage a whole division of a small guild. For this type of person to be stuck with this kid meant, Ahram must have some kind of importance to the backers. Sungchul digested the information, then nonchalantly picked up Ahram before heading back to the group.
Two days later, Ahram disappeared into the forest without anyone’s knowledge, the Drill Sergeant was there waiting for him.
“I have been waiting. Great Human!”
The Drill Sergeant lead Ahram through the forest to a cliff using his usual tottering sort of steps. Below the cliff, there was a cave entrance. Ahram silently entered the forest, then popped out after an hour.
“Gasp gasp… Shit… it’s still too hard.”
“Kekeke! Great human! There is no need to rush! There will definitely be progress if you challenge it again tomorrow!”
Sungchul carefully stepped out towards the cave after the pair had left.
He stepped in without a second thought. A series of brightly lit letters appeared before him.
[Vestiare of the Seven Heroes’ Memorial]
[You have entered Vestiare’s Dream World]
[Which dream of the Seven Heroes do you wish to view?]
[The difficulty varies with each dream.]
There were 6 different dreams listed ascending in difficulty.
[A Summer Day’s Dream]
[False Dream of Spring]
[Dream of Troubled Sleep]
[Memories of the Divine War]
“Seventh Hero, Vestiare.”
Seven heroes, they were the legendary figures once known for having saved the Other World. However, their names had arrogantly been listed at second among the five calamities. Sungchul’s lips curled into a frosty smile. He chose one of the six dreams.
[You have dared to choose Seventh Hero Vestiare’s Eternal Nightmare]
[Be prepared to be met with death within the eternal darkness!]