[Round 22, 2nd day. 12:20]
I heard the sonorous sound of trumpets and saw humans from afar, appearing as ants from a distance, lining up and preparing their battle formations.
In the vast plains, the two opposing armies prepare for their battle at noon.
It looks like it's finally begun.
The 25th floor was the first solo stage in the last five stages.
The theme revolved around choosing between two armies of similar strength and attaining victory for the army of your choice.
You would have to not only battle, but command, interact with the army, and exert your influence on them.
You'd need the ability to grasp people's' hearts, whether it be by a silver tongue or through acting.
They're skills I don't have.
They're skills I never really needed.
I went to the two armies and rather than get involved, I chose one and sat atop the rocky mountains that had a great view of the plains and passed time.
Even if I'm not there, the two armies will clash anyway.
The two armies each had a flag: a blue and a red flag.
The two conflicting colors divided the two armies and I just arbitrarily chose the red flag.
I heard the sound of the trumpets once more and the sound of rolling drums followed by battle cries.
The two armies' battle lines began to move.
Since the plains were so vast, it seemed like they would need more time before they fully began their conflict.
Rather than pointlessly watching them, I answered a message.
[Kim Min Hyuk, 30th floor: Hey, why won't you respond? If you're busy, should I contact you later?]
[Lee Ho Jae, 25th floor: No. What's wrong?]
[Kim Min Hyuk, 30th floor: Amongst the newbies that just entered this round, one of them had some interesting info.]
[Lee Ho Jae, 25th floor: What kind of information?]
[Kim Min Hyuk, 30th floor: There're 3 people in China who have cleared the Tutorial. 3.]
It certainly was interesting.
[Lee Ho Jae, 25th floor: What floor is Park Min on?]
[Kim Min Hyuk, 30th floor: 90th floor.]
In the Korean server, Park Min was the challenger who had reached the highest floor on the Easy Difficulty.
In order to clear safely, he had intentionally delayed his progression, so he still had more than 10 floors left.
[Kang Min Hyuk, 30th floor: To be honest, there's no proof that those people have cleared the Tutorial yet. It's just that apparently, three supermen appeared that fought barehanded against monsters in China. But yeah… I heard a bit of the interview. After hearing them talk about their weapons or their tips about hunting monsters, it seems like they really were challengers who cleared the Tutorial. It looks like the Chinese government is treating them like war heroes and using them for propaganda.]
[Lee Ho Jae, 25th floor: They're lucky, it seems like they got the government to acknowledge them. Normally, they'd fly to straight to either a torture chamber or a lab.]
There may be challengers in other countries who have cleared the tutorial. We don't know.
They just weren’t apparent at a moment’s glance or perhaps the country is hiding them.
[Lee Ho Jae, 25th floor: Well, it's not bad. Now there's less work for us to do.]
[Kim Min Hyuk, 30th floor: Yeah. Since we became the second movers, we don't have to explain the role of the Tutorial anymore.]
Through competition, we became aware of the existence of foreign servers, but people expected the first graduates of the Tutorial to come out of Korea.
Korea's progress, compared to other countries, was overwhelming, and since the beginning, Korea had created a stable system that would allow challengers to develop more quickly.
I thought we were definitely ahead compared to challengers from other countries.
That might be true.
Even before I had cleared the 12th floor, the Order of Vigilance had already been preparing for the Tutorial’s aftermath .
They made plans to persuade the Korean government and they were collecting letters to send to their families.
The Order of Vigilance had supported Lee Chan Yong, who had been the top player at the time. However, in the meantime, his clear speed had been conversely getting slower compared to other challengers.
Lee Chan Yong was resolute in clearing the Tutorial so the Order of Vigilance had wanted to get him out quickly. Even if the other challengers' progress was somewhat slow, the Order of Vigilance wanted them to clear safely.
At the same time, several people wanted to clear the Tutorial and go back to the outside world.
In many ways, it wasn't a bad plan and the plan seemed to be progressing smoothly.
However, within a few rounds, Lee Chan Yong, the one they expected to clear the Tutorial, just stopped and their plan went awry.
There were a lot of Easy difficulty challengers who could replace Lee Chan Yong. These challengers only lagged behind him by around 10 floors.
What's worse, because of Lee Chan Yong's disastrous failure, his clear speed slowed exponentially.
Because of that, the other top player, Park Min also remained on the 90th floor.
[Kang Min Hyuk, 30th floor: Now that it's become like this, they'll just wait for the challengers behind them to catch up to the 90th floor and they'll all work together to clear it and get out together.]
[Lee Ho Jae, 25th floor: That'd probably be good. Well, do you as please.]
I listened closely, but it wasn't something I could decide on from the start.
Honestly, it wasn't really the kind of talk I would be interested in…
[Kim Min Hyuk, 30th floor: . . . I will do as I please. How about you? When do you think you'll clear the 25th floor?]
[Lee Ho Jae, 25th floor: Today.]
* * * * * *
The infantry clashed as arrows and magic flew above their heads.
I could see the cavalry tearing through the battlefield.
Although the battle was far away, I could feel its intensity from here.
I could hear their battle cries and their feet tapping on the ground from this faraway on the summit of the rocky mountain.
It was enough for me to just use these two skills.
I invoked Soul Siphon across a wide area and the enemy soldiers' physical prowess declined.
They experienced a feeling of helplessness and they cowered.
It's easy to think about how deadly this skill is when I see the scene in front of me.
The front line is collapsing.
Even though the soldiers had similar abilities, the red soldiers won one-sidedly when they were pitted against the blue soldiers..
This phenomena was simultaneously occurring all over the battlefield.
Plus, I'm also using the Overpower skill.
Unlike the Soul Siphon skill, Overpower uses my mana, though the enemies afflicted by Soul Siphon were quickly dying off anyway.
In this large scale battle, I'll never run out of mana.
Since I'm already using two skills, one more wouldn't hurt.
Talaria’s Wings doesn't simply afflict enemies. It was the God of Adventure’s skill that affected allies and synergistically improved their fighting abilities.
Moreover, the red flag soldiers were fighting against a weakened and intimidated enemy, cutting them down with greater ease than before.
They wouldn't even need to capture the battle line. Soon enough, the battle line started to crumble.
I could roughly see that before a single red flag soldier went down, they took at least 5 blue flag soldiers with them.
Even from afar, I could clearly see the front line collapsing.
It looked like the red army commander was authenticating it as well, since both of the armies were huge.
But there's no commander in the world that wouldn't want to ensure his victory, especially when the balance had abnormally tipped like now.
He watched their movements and turned his attention to the sword in his hand.
Kiri Kiri had once said that if my level reaches a certain point, I'll be able to get rewarded with level ups again.
However, Kiri Kiri withdrew her advice.
Due to my growth rate, she said that I wouldn't be able to get any level-up rewards from now on.
Also, she told me to stop being interested in levels and just concentrate on my own growth.
My methods of growth are limited.
First, I can raise my resistances.
It’s something I’ve done up till now.
The other is to study and master what I don't know.
One example is magic.
However, Kiri Kiri said I'd have to be at least at the 30th floor before I get anything regarding magic.
Therefore, I started train myself in swordsmanship.
My swordsmanship was definitely a limiting factor to my combat style.
Up till now, I had used my extreme speed and reflexes to cut down my opponents but technically, there weren't many strong opponents.
If I exclude my fights with fellow challengers, my weapon skills always lagged behind my opponents.
The fact that I got my sword skills to the intermediate level without any sort of study is amazing.
Even when comparing myself to the community, there aren't a lot of people with intermediate-level swordsmanship.
And there wasn't anyone with a higher swordsmanship level than me.
However, now I could see the limit to my swordsmanship.
Should I say that I see a wall?
Similar to how I didn't have a definite form for my swordsmanship, I also didn't know how to improve my swordsmanship itself. Based on the situation and on my condition, I would slightly alter my swordsmanship style during battle.
It could become an advantage, but there was certainly a limit to it because I couldn't progress any further with that style.
Therefore, I diligently studied the swordsmanship of the knight from the 16th floor.
It was a passive style designed for defense.
It occasionally employed feints but the feints were simply used to buy time for the final deathblow.
The young knight's swordsmanship was definitely untried in real combat.
That's how I assessed his swordsmanship.
Even so, there were a few useful things, like the three moves leading up to the final lethal technique.
Because of that, I was able to learn the method of storing my mana into my sword and ejecting it out in front of me. I also learned how to handle aura.
As I got better at handling aura, I decided that there was nothing more that I could learn from the knight's swordsmanship.
However, on the 19th floor, when I just mindlessly tried the techniques, I realized they were fairly useful techniques.
My sword skill level improved to a higher level.
Perhaps I just hadn't realized the true value of this swordsmanship until now.
Whenever I thought that way, I would practice my swordsmanship diligently.
I swung my Thousand Arms in the form of a longsword, and started with the basic movements.
Of course, it was a defensive style that didn't match my style at all.
Whenever I practiced the knight’s swordsmanship, I didn’t feel like my skill improved. Rather, I just felt that I wouldn’t be able to use his swordsmanship in a real fight.
In no time at all, the battle was finishing up.
The red flag army was now one-sidedly slaughtering the enemy.
Unusually, the quickly crumbling blue flag army wasn't retreating but still holding their positions.
Of course, because they were being pushed back, there were a lot of deserters breaking away from the battlefield but the army's military headquarters stayed in the same place.
Also, in front of those headquarters, an iron giant rose.
The giant's horrible shriek echoed all the way to the mountains.
The attacking red flag army simply stopped.
Even if I catch a glimpse from here, it was big enough to be over five or six meters tall.
It wasn't something that could be taken on by just normal soldiers.
Based on Kiri Kiri's information, she said the that golem, no matter what side the challenger chooses, appears on the side that the challenger didn't pick.
Then, that golem might be the actual challenge for the 25th floor.
I flew with Talaria's wings.
I flew with my maximum speed towards the golem and thought.
The style of swordsmanship I learned from the knight had a finishing move that ended at the sequence of three corresponding moves.
The final three moves could be called the core of the style, but the actual explanation on the final technique was far too general.
Because of that, I fumbled through his teachings and I hadn't been able to properly manifest aura, and sometimes my mana would even wildly eject from my sword.
I thought that the final technique was to simply manifest an aura blade and that I just needed to swing my sword at the right timing.
Because of that, I heard about the 11-19 forms related to the three final forms from the knight, but I hadn't listened attentively.
I just thought he was just telling me the method to use aura.
Since it had splendid movements and had really technical names.
That was what I thought when I saw the knight try to act all cool.
But I could trust the knight now.
The several techniques he had taught me were all in preparation for the final technique. Future swordsmen would have to use their own methods to interpret the skills in a way appropriate for them.
It was really a relief, because even though I told the talkative swordsman that I didn't need to hear his explanation, he still told me all about the techniques in detail.
At some point, I had flown into the vicinity of the golem.
Seeing the battlefield up close, it felt a bit different from when I looked at it from the mountaintop.
I had seen this many times; people tangled in a war, fighting on the battlefield.
There would always be chaos in the center of the battlefield but this was a first.
The majority of the two armies remained and continued to fight. I guess I just had to accept that this was really happening.
There wasn't anything really unusual.
The red flag soldiers that had advanced towards the golem were quickly being torn down.
The blue flag soldiers, at some point, had reorganized their ranks and matched the golem's steps and slowly advanced forward.
I didn't slow down my flight speed and rotated vertically, aiming for the golem's head.
Before I collided with it, I swung my sword.
It wasn't difficult.
There wasn't much of a difference from the moment I swung my sword and the moments my blows landed, light glinting off its edges.
Fire blazed along the trajectory of my sword but a protective coating formed on the golem, blocking my sword.
However, the protective coating couldn't slow my sword for even a second.
My sword split the protective coating, and fell upon the golem's head unimpeded.
I adjusted my falling speed and cut straight down from the head down to the its abdomen.
I cut the golem into a smooth cross section like I was cutting tofu, and the golem crumbled as both of its pieces collapsed onto the ground.
When the enormous golem fell, it let out a deafening roar along with a huge dust cloud from the impact of the collapsed parts on the earth..
The two armies retreated quickly so they wouldn't be buried by its remains.
During that time, I examined the golem's body.
Tiny flames were stuck to the cross-section.
I relaxed a bit after I scrutinized the flames on the surface of the metal golem.
Still, I had gotten a lot better.
It felt like I had been rewarded for my hard work for weeks.
I felt lighthearted and turned my head, to meet the dazed faces of the blue flag soldiers.
* * * * * *
It was simple to take care of the remnants.
Before the golem appeared, the blue flag army was being helplessly pushed back.
As soon as I entered the battlefield, the golem was split into 2 pieces and the golem collapsed just like that.
Rather, it took longer to finish off the deserters from the beginning of the battle.
I took care of the last soldier hiding under a corpse and a message appeared.
[Tutorial, Hell Difficulty, 25th Floor, Clear.]
[All status effects and injuries are healed.]
[You have received 5000 points for clearing the floor.]
[You have received 5000 points for being the first to clear the floor.]
[Many gods react positively to you. You have received 2300 points.]
[Many gods react negatively to you. 700 points have been deducted.]
[Based on your play records, additional rewards will be given.]
[You have acquired the skill, Time Confinement Lv. Max.]
[Battle Concentration Lv. 28 and Time Confinement Lv. Max have been integrated.]
This stage was much easier than I had expected.
Perhaps because of that, there weren't many extreme reactions from the gods.
From the start, from the mountaintop alone, I practiced my swordsmanship and then I swung my sword a few times before the stage ended.
The unusual point was the skill I had received from the clear.
Looking at the level of the skill, it was a skill given to me by the gods.
Let's take a look.
[Time Confinement (Lv. Max)]
Explanation: A god who wouldn't say his/her name has given you this skill as a present.
If you don't figure out her name, she may get angry at you.
This is a skill from the God of Slowness.
She didn't explain how the skill works, but it said that she'd get angry or something, so it was definitely her.
The God of Slowness had given me a skill on the 2nd floor and had offered an opportunity for me to become her disciple on the 6th floor. Including this, she had given me two skills as presents.
The God of Slowness had used all her chances to give a challenger a skill, so it looked like she had used a trick and hid her name to give me an extra skill.
Whenever a god showed interest in me, the God of Slowness would sometimes get anxious. I bet I'm right.
This skill is, just as the name implies, based on time.
If we look at the fact that Battle Concentration was integrated into it, it looks like it has a connection to my level of focus.
I'll ask Kiri Kiri for a more in-depth explanation.
[The God of Slowness is satisfied.]
It looks like it was definitely a skill gifted to me by the God of Slowness.
In any case, I attained another skill from a god.
You're the best, God of Slowness.
[The God of Adventure grumbled.]
Besides the sound of someone grumbling, a portal appeared from the ground and I stepped onto the portal.
From a loud and chaotic battlefield, I was transported to a quiet and peaceful field.
I saw Kiri Kiri squatting down in the middle of the green field.
Unlike the usual Kiri Kiri, she turned her back halfway towards me and was sitting down.
Kiri Kiri turned her head and stared at me.
She looked like she was sulking.
Kiri Kiri, who momentarily locked her gaze with mine, snorted and turned her head around.