Chapter 10 – Alchemist (1)
The first Rank Match drew to a close . There were countless zombies and human corpses strewn about on the floor . This had been relatively easy compared to some other trials, but there were still more than a few casualties . Their numbers had been cut down to below a thousand . Most of the injured came from the latter half of the fight when the zombies managed to push through the group with their sheer numbers and decimated everyone .
However, the overall strength of the summoned had also grown . Those that had contributed in killing the zombies were granted bonus stats and rewards .
An unexpected turn of events had occurred . No, it would be more accurate to say that he had a brief lapse of memory . Even 25 years ago, the rewards had still been handed out based on merit . He reflected on the reason he could have forgotten such a crucial detail and came up with an answer .
‘Blanche Plaza was always number one . We never let go of that position even once . It was unimaginable to think that the other Plazas could beat ours . That must be why I had instinctively chosen this plaza . ’
25 years ago, many famous figures appeared from the Blanche Plaza: the one with great charisma who had held the people together, the smart one who had cleverly formulated how to overcome each trial, and then the silent one who resolutely held the front; Sungchul was of the third category .
He had always stood at the frontlines to protect the others, and grew stronger unintentionally . Faded faces flashed through his mind . Some were still alive, others were dead . The survivors had become giants; each of whom by now had a great deal of influence in their own area .
“… . ”
His reverie was interrupted by a new message .[The Division of Rewards for each plaza is complete . ] [Congratulations! You have acquired first-grade rewards!] [You have been rated Reward Grade A . ]
2x Palace Token
1x Fresh meat
1x Week Supply of Rations
1 . Divine Elixir of Escape
2 . Explosion Scroll
3 . Wind Master’s Blade[Please Choose]
The basic rewards were as bare as he’d expected . However, the selection rewards drew Sungchul’s attention . They were quite balanced in value, Elixir of Escape and Explosion scrolls were consumed upon use, but in turn were very powerful . The Elixir guaranteed someone’s survival during Pacman rules, and Explosion scrolls were powerful during Alamo rules or Deathmatch rules . The blade was also useful for people who had confidence in their own abilities . It raised their dexterity and added a critical strike effect . It would be a relevant weapon for a beginner until they left the Palace .
25 years ago, Sungchul chose the Windmaster’s Blade . However this time, Sungchul chose the explosion scroll . The sword was useless to Sungchul and the explosion scroll had more utility to it than the Escape Elixir . The Elixir was only effective against demonic creatures, but the Explosion scroll could also be used on humans . It would be difficult, but the explosion scroll could be used to seriously wound the predators during Pacman rules .
Sungchul looked through the small package of rewards . Palace tokens, food, and explosion scroll . Sungchul packed up his rewards and returned to the training center . It was obvious, but the preselected were fine, some had even managed to get into the rankings .
“Taeksoo, that’s awesome! You’re third place . You got the highest score amongst us!”
The ranking results could be seen from numerous Stone of Records scattered around the palace . Sungchul looked at the record out of amusement .[1 . Ahmuge – 142] [2 . Chun Jungshik – 100] [3 . Kim Taeksoo – 85]
…[6 . Lee Yuhoon – 64]
…[21 . Ha Yungjong – 44] [22 . Kim Sungchul – 35] [23 . Park Ahram – 29]
Sungchul allowed himself a strange smile . ‘Ahmuge and Chun Jungshik . I’ve never heard of them . ’
Sungchul recalled the face of the woman he saw during the battle . They had competed over the bonus monster, and she had been quite skilled . It might be that her name was amongst the two listed there .
Sungchul continued down the list until another name caught his eyes .
‘Park Ahram . A meager 29 . ’
It wasn’t intentional, but the zombie he had thrown during combat had hit Ahram on the head . Ahram not only fell unconscious due to that; but also had his Spirit Wolf summoning staff stolen .
Sungchul could see Ahram’s despondent face in the corner of the training center . He continued to skillfully operate the record stone .[Would you like to see previous records?]
Sungchul visualized ‘Yes’ in his mind, and the messages in front of him changed .[Historical Ranking] [1 . William Quinton Marlboro – 301] [2 . Shamal Lajiput – 275] [3 . Kim Sungchul – 256]
Looking at the records, he couldn’t help but scratch his head .
‘William . . Shamal… Such nostalgic names . Even my name is in the records, I wonder what happened? Isn’t it much easier now to set higher records than before?’
There weren’t any privileged people in the past; only those with outstanding physical strength could face the oncoming demonic creatures . He had expected much better scores to arise compared to the past, but reality didn’t reflect his expectations . Those preselected might just not have tried as hard after being coddled by the factions, or perhaps, the current generations of summoned might just have fallen in quality .
Sungchul felt satisfied with what he saw as he returned to the training center . Several Preselected were admiring their rewards . However, there were dark faces among them . The Preselected who received no reward, despite having been given privileges and advantages, could do nothing but hang their head as their comrades celebrated .
“Kim Hyung! Come here!”
Ha Yungjong shouted tactlessly across the center . He had a transparent glass in his right hand . It was the Divine Elixir of Escape .
“Kim Hyung has one too, right?”
Sungchul shook his head .
“No . ”
“What do you mean why?”
“I saw that Kim Hyung also killed over 30 of ‘em . What did you pick? Did you ignore your guide and picked something else?”
Sungchul simply nodded, and Yungjong jumped up in shock .
“Dang… you’ve got guts . Mine said you could die on the next ranked match without one . That Pacman or something game . ”
“Don’t worry about me . ”
Yungjong had briefly talked to the others in the group, and they had decided similarly . Their guides had probably urged them to get the item in order to guarantee their survival in the Pacman round . This must be why those without the rewards looked so grim .
Ahram, who was usually full of energy, also sat in a corner and picked at his nails . He had even lost his staff which was his failsafe .
There were others who were also marked for death among his group . Sungchul easily recognized the look of despair on their faces . It was the girl covered from head to toe in brand-name clothing that he had met on the first day .
Bae Sunghae .
She couldn’t kill a single zombie . It wasn’t because her strength was lacking; her weapon was better than the average pre-selected . Her score was 0 because she couldn’t muster the courage to strike down a zombie . It could have been out of disgust or might have been out of fear . No matter the reason, the result was that she now had to worry about her immediate future .
Sungchul had felt her gaze on him for a while now . She kept peeking over at him every now and then . She couldn’t approach him because Yungjong was making such a large ruckus next to him .
Previously, she had looked down on both of them . The reason being that ugly, unsociable, shy men were the perfect target for mockery . Things were different now; her glamorous persona and her status as the daughter of a wealthy family in the real world had given her a golden ticket, which now had no value due to the failing score she had earned in this match . Even the ‘friends’ that had socialized with her during meals now completely ostracized her .
Shortly after, Sunghae finally approached Sungchul .
“Now! Now! Humans! You might catch some nasty disease from the zombies and corpses lying around! Let’s work to move them quick-quick!”
The homunculi brought over a goat-driven cart in order to load the corpses . Sungchul joined in the clean up and began tossing the bodies into the cart one at a time .
“Excuse me . ”
He could hear a hesitant, yet familiar voice from behind him . Sungchul turned around and faced Sunghae . It wasn’t a confrontational glare but was also without any warmth . Sunghae felt tense receiving this sort of indifference .
“I… why do I have to… beg to him…’
However, this was a matter of life and death . Sunghae squeezed all of her strength into forming something similar to a smile on her face .
“What do you want?”
There wasn’t even a second to waste on such a woman . Sungchul replied very curtly .
Sunghae already felt quite frustrated, and now she could only crawl even lower . She avoided Sungchul’s chilling stare and spat out her rehearsed speech .
“Um… I am really sorry for the first day . It was all because I was so shocked and scared… I must not have been myself . ”
“And you are here because?”
Sungchul quickly cut her off . Sunghae had always felt that, in all her years of popularity, she knew how animals called ‘males’ worked better than most . Her experiences told her that this man did not care to entertain her for even one bit; This conversation had been impossible from the start . Sunghae could feel a cold sweat trickling down her back .
“If that’s all then . ”
Sungchul turned around and began walking toward another pile of corpses . She quickly blocked his path and spoke with a mocking tone .
“You’re also a man, right? A young one at that . How about having someone like me?”
She had abandoned her pride and threw herself at his feet . Sungchul continued looking at her with cold eyes and spoke plainly .
“What about you?”
“Stop pretending . I’ll just say it straight then; help me . ”
“What do you want?”
Sunghae looked over at the staff tied down to Sungchul’s back . The energy bolt firing magical staff, Moonlight . With this, she might be able to overcome her weak resolve and raise her score . This was why she had approached Sungchul .
“That staff . Let me use it, and I’ll do anything you ask . ”
As she finished, she unbuttoned the top of her shirt . Her cleavage peeked out tantalizingly from between her black brassiere .
“You must be frustrated after so long, right? I can do it right now if you want . ”
People passing by looked at her with shock and disgust, but she had nowhere else to turn .
‘If I can just take his staff… It doesn’t matter what anyone says . ’
However, Sungchul didn’t show any response . He looked at Sunghae’s cleavage with the same indifference as Warren Buffet would look at gold . Sunghae suddenly started feeling nervous .
‘This bastard… this guy hung around that catfish bastard… could it be…?!
“Miss . ”
Sungchul finally spoke, and Sunghae buttoned her top back up .
He spoke indifferently while pointing at his lower half .
“I commend your courage, but mine doesn’t stand anymore . ”
He turned and quickly left . Sunghae’s mind was spinning in chaos .
‘Rejected by a bastard like that… that smelly country hick bastard!’
She was unaware that she hadn’t washed in a while either and now smelled just as bad, if not worse . However, Sunghae was a resilient woman . She caught up to him again and blocked his path once more .
“Move . ”
Sungchul didn’t have any compassion this time . Sungbae couldn’t help but collapse under his frosty eyes; with its murderous intent that made her break out in goosebumps . Tears started pouring out of her eyes and her voice tumbled out pitifully .
“Please… please, that staff… let me use it… . please…”
Sunghae clung to him desperately .
“What are you going to give to me?”
Sungchul turned around . It wasn’t out of some half-baked sympathy, but to see if there was even a shred of something that he could get from this woman .
“W-what do you want?”
When she asked, he spoke in mysterious terms pointing above his own head .
“Ask him . Ask what he can offer me . ”
Magicians didn’t want their charges to die . It could be said that her guiding magician might be just as desperate as Sunghae . Sungchul recalled Krill’s desperate face and laughed to himself .