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 mystery 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 fought with their weapons and even killed each other for 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 the plazas. 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 original objective was to prepare the Summoned to integrate with Other World by subjecting them to hellish conditions.
It felt like that objective had changed now. The privileged few, 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 unlock 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 were 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. It was thanks to him that Sungchul was able to come across Vestiare’s cave, and a similar opportunity may arise again.
Since 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 man who resembled a catfish, the one who had shown animosity towards Yuhoon on the first day. He was 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 caused the others to avoid him. He felt a strong sense of rivalry with Yuhoon but had low ability and talent. So Sungchul saw him as a man with an inferiority complex.
“If you wouldn’t mind, would you like to 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 his 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 Old World. He’d lived a short life of twenty-five years, 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 Old World. He only managed to obtain his current appearance through several facial reconstructions and surgeries, but the time that had passed in this world hadn’t been short.
“That’s so strange. I didn’t think people would be so eager to become a Government worker.”
“What crazy planet are you from?”
It had been more than twenty years since he had been summoned to 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 are doing well.’
Some of the Summoned had managed to amass great achievements which gave them the right to return to the home world. They were called the Returnees. A few among Sungchul’s old companions had chosen to return back to the Old World at the cost of the majority of their strength. Sungchul had also wished to return, but he had cleanly given up on the idea. It was enough for him to listen to stories through others.
Snapping away from his thoughts, he saw 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 being he had never seen before. A man was standing at a distance. He was dressed in a conspicuous outfit and was looking over in Sungchul’s direction. Unlike the modern clothes of the other Summoned, he wore a Mage’s robe of this world.
‘A Mage? It’s interesting to see human other than Summoned in the Summoning Palace.’
Sungchul’s eyes sparkled with curiosity.
“Not here…Not here. Hyunsuk, that piece of shit…”
The Mage in the distance was none other than Krill Regall. He had taken the slave tunnel leading to the plaza and took quite some time to find the group of Preselected. He knew only one face from the group, but he couldn’t find him. Hyunsuk, the Asian man with a detestable face.
‘Did he really die?’
He felt terror crawl up his spine as he counted the people in the group. There were twenty-three of them sitting in the circle eating, two less than the amount chosen originally. It was possible that his Charge was still alive and well within the plaza, but it seemed more likely that he was already dead.
‘Shit. What happened? How did this happen?’
He suddenly noticed one detail. Among the twenty-three Preselected, there was one person without an Observer’s Eye. He had a slim build with 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…? Did This guy do something?’
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, solely through the physical strength he obtained from completing quests during his time in the Summoning Palace. 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 pressing on Krill’s chest firmly with his foot. Krill 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, Mage. Why are you looking for me?”
The man, Sungchul, asked coldly.
“Are you looking for your Charge?”
Krill was ambushed verbally, and his weak spot was immediately exposed.
“How is that kid?”
Krill asked desperately. It was all but an impossible dream, but he still hoped against hope. Sungchul’s reply, however, couldn’t be blunter.
Krill’s shoulders finally lost all strength. The word ‘despair’ flooded his mind. All hope crumbled away, 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 hide?”
It was Sungchul. He removed his foot from Krill’s chest and spoke quietly.
“Help me, and I’ll give you a way out of this.”
Something shiny fell near Krill’s face. 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 🙂