The homunculi were at the center of the chaos.
“Now! Now! This is a special ration provided for the rank match tomorrow! Humans! Eat plenty and bring out your strength!”
The homunculi were distributing hard bread with mysterious meat inside, from a large cart pulled by eight goats. The starving people flew into a frenzy at the first sight of food after several days. 1500 people swarmed the cart like bees and began fighting for any reason whatsoever. In the worst cases, they would start to fight with their weapons and even killed over the food.
Sungchul ignored the chaos and focused on what the Homunculus had said.
‘Rank matches are tomorrow? Did it get pulled forward?’
Rank matches were the most important events in the Summoning Palace. There were four plazas: Blanche, Azure, Crimson, and Scarlet. Within the Summoning Palace, they would hold a death match with special conditions between each plaza. These matches were the rank matches.
In Sungchul’s time, these rank matches would kill off at least a hundred people each time. Sometimes it would cut down a group by half its number. These rank matches also provided plentiful rewards for the survivors. The Summoning Palace’s objective was to raise functional people to integrate with the Other World by using these hellish conditions.
It felt like that objective had changed now. The privileged chosen, the ‘Preselected’, were an indisputable proof of this.
“Now. Watch that. Isn’t it fucking funny? They are crawling like dogs just to eat some rotten bread.”
“What else are they going to do? They haven’t eaten anything else.”
While the average summoned were fighting for food with their lives, the preselected were busy mocking them while sitting underneath the shade of the training center. Some silently continued training, but others were embracing their first form of entertainment in a while. Sungchul quietly claimed a corner of the center and fell deep into meditation. One of the common quests required him to meditate at a set time for 2 Intuition.
When the meditation ended, he circled the plaza looking for inscriptions that were hidden along the walls to read aloud. It wasn’t well known, but the Summoning Palace’s inscriptions changed daily. Even the former ‘Death shall set you free’, was now, ‘Life might be painful, but there might also be value’.
He had continuously worked on common quests so he could gain intuition, but now, he also needed magic power. The targeted hidden class, Echo Mage, required intuition and magic power of 20 to obtain it.
Sungchul scoured through the list obtained from the homunculus and memorized each relevant quest. Especially the long-term quests, or the repetitive quests which needed to be completed first. Sungchul efficiently utilized each moment of his day so he could continuously progress through these quests.
He didn’t slack off on observing the others in his group, especially Ahram. He might be fortunate again and discover an opportunity like with Vestiare’s cave.
As Vestiare’s Memorial had been completed, Ahram’s guiding mage ought to be busy preparing a new growth opportunity for him. They couldn’t guarantee his survival in the trials otherwise. No matter how superior the people in this group were, this place was like the jungle; there would be plenty of geniuses among the crowd who were lying in wait. Careless people were constantly losing their lives around these parts. Sungchul got up as he noticed the sunset.
“Let’s slowly begin our meals.”
Yuhoon, who had been sweating by the spinning blade dummy, finally called the group together. The few who had grown tired of the endless fights followed along without a fuss. Sungchul woke from his meditation and followed after them.
As he was brushing off the dirt, a man approached him.
It was the yankee punk that had criticized Yuhoon during the first day. He was being ostracized by the group along with Sungchul. He didn’t outright refuse socializing with them as Sungchul did, but his outward appearance and brash attitude had formed a barrier between them. He felt particularly competitive towards Yuhoon but didn’t have any particular talents or skill to speak of, so it came off as desperate in Sungchul’s view.
“You wanna eat together?”
He forced the words out with much difficulty. He had a tough exterior, but he was still human and must have started feeling lonely after a while. Sungchul returned a smile.
“Let’s do that then.”
After the blood pudding incident, Yuhoon had moved the usual eating spot from the forest to underneath the walls. It was more likely to be discovered by the others, but it was less dangerous. As usual, Sungchul sat slightly apart from the group and chewed on his hard bread. The only difference now was that another person was sitting beside him.
Yungjong had been preparing for a government position in the real world. He’d lived a short life of 25, but with an empty smile, he spoke bitterly about how nothing had worked out as he’d planned.
“The competition was so fierce. It wasn’t so easy to overcome half of the youth population in Korea, you know?”
“Is that so?”
It had been a while since he heard any recent stories from the real world. He only managed to maintain his original appearance through several facial reconstructions and surgeries, but the time which had passed in this world hasn’t been short.
“That’s so strange. I didn’t think the government work test would be that popular?”
“What crazy reality are you from?”
It had been 20 years since he had been summoned to the Other World. That was enough time to carve a river into a mountain. He recalled the times he used his bus tokens to get a ride to the roller disco so he could skate along with the disco music.
‘I wonder if those who have returned back are doing well.’
There were some of the summoned that managed to amass great achievements which allowed them a path to return back to reality, they were called the Returnees. A few among Sungchul’s old companions had chosen to return back to reality at the cost of the majority of their strength. Sungchul had also felt compelled to return, but he had cleanly given up by now. It was enough for him to listen to currents events through word of mouth.
Snapping away from his thoughts, he noticed Ahram chewing on bread away from the group; it didn’t seem to have any special meaning. As he was about to turn back his gaze, he noticed a new being he had never noticed before. One man was standing at a distance. He was dressed in a conspicuous outfit, looking over in this direction. It was unlike the modern clothes of the other summoned, but rather like the magician’s robe of this world.
‘A magician? It’s interesting to see another human other than a summoned in the Summoning Palace.’
Sungchul’s eyes sparkled with curiosity.
“Not here… Not here. Hyunsuk that piece of shit…”
The magician in the distance was none other than Krill Regall. He had taken the slave tunnel to the plaza exterior and took quite some time to find the preselected’s group. He only knew one face from the group, but he couldn’t find him. Hyunsuk, the Asian kid with a punchable face.
‘Did he really die?’
He felt terror crawl up his spine as he counted the people in the group. There were 23 people sitting in the circle eating, two less than the amount chosen originally. It was possible that he was within the plaza, but it was more likely that he was dead.
‘Shit. How did this happen? What happened?’
He suddenly noticed one detail. Among the 23 preselected, there was one person without an Observer’s Eye. He had a slim build with an average height. A man wearing military fatigues and old jeans. He confirmed again with his Glasses of Truth, but the man truly didn’t have the Observer’s Eye around him.
‘Could it be…? This guy pulled some kind of trick?”
Krill’s eyes emitted a cold murderous intent. He carefully walked towards the group. It was then that the man in military fatigues began heading towards the forest on his own.
Krill felt a twinge of excitement at the tip of his tongue as he followed the man into the forest.
‘I don’t know what your plans are, but I’m planning on making you sing.’
He had a squeamish personality and didn’t enjoy doing anything violent, but there was no time for him to be picky. He had to get through this disaster at any cost. He kept reassuring himself with these words as he pulled out a magic staff and followed after the man.
“Looking for me?”
An unexpected voice, came from an unexpected direction.
‘What is this guy?’
He was grabbed from behind. However, this was only a newly summoned. He should be able to handle him even without using any of his magic, through the physical strength he had honed from the Summoning Palace’s many quests. He tried to counter the assault while keeping this in mind.
His vision turned yellow in one blow.
When he came to, the man was stepping on Krill’s chest firmly with his foot. He tried to move, but it felt like he was nailed to the ground. He finally realized the man in the military fatigues was no normal person.
“Hey, Magician. Why are you looking for me?”
The man, Sungchul, spoke in a frosty tone.
“Are you looking for your blood charge?”
Krill was ambushed verbally and his weak spot was immediately exposed.
“How is that kid?”
Krill asked desperately. It was all but a crushed dream, but he still pulled, even on his final thread of hope. Sungchul’s reply, however, couldn’t be more blunt.
Krill’s shoulders finally lost all strength. The word ‘despair’ flooded his mind. All hope disappeared, and the image of the slave hunter who had helped him appeared in his head. What he had thought was crude and disgusting at first was now a vision of his future. It was at this moment that another glimmer of hope appeared.
“Looking for a hole to live in?”
It was Sungchul. He removed his foot from his chest and spoke quietly.
“Help me, and I’ll give you a way out of this.”
Something shiny fell on Krill’s head. It was a blue emerald.
Note: 2 more chapters will be released in about 7 hours. I hope y’all are enjoying the novel! Our new translator NaturalRice and editor KitKat have done an amazing work on the novel 🙂