I found it surprising that there were such differences among people based on what difficulty group they belonged to.
Overall, the ones from the Easy difficulty looked rather relaxed.
They could move up as long as they put their mind to it and worked hard. They didn’t need to muster any courage. With a little bit of effort, they could survive without danger and not go to higher floors.
It meant earning points was that much easier for them.
In other words, the difficulty of the traps was lower for them.
The ones in Normal difficulty were completely divided in two kinds of groups.
There were people who had been just holding out in the first floor while buying meat jerkies and water.
If they continued that lifestyle, it was obvious that their health would be negatively affected by it. Those people had been repeating entering and leaving the waiting room throughout the round and keeping their health.
Quite literally, they were fully focused only on holding out.
The other kind was a group composed of the people usually called rankers, the upper group of challengers in the normal difficulty.
Currently, they were the people who lead in the Tutorial… no… within the Community.
With clearing the Tutorial as the goal, they had been gathering and spreading information, and they had been garnering the people’s support from doing so.
And lastly, the people from Hard difficulty had a unique atmosphere about them.
While the Third Round was repeating, the challengers of the Hard difficulty dwelled mostly in first and second floors.
After the First Round, with the spread of the information, the death rate declined significantly. However, the number of people who succeeded in clearing the first and second floor was extremely small.
The people in the waiting room got switched every time the Round repeated, so naturally, they knew each other very well.
Although they met each other again in this grassy plain,
“Well, it has been a while. Has it been almost a month?”
Those were the extents of their conversations.
Also, there was an air of a club-like feel that was unique to them.
Perhaps it was the result of combining the high probability of survival and low clear rate.
Of them all, the really unique ones were the people who were the minority on the third floor.
In the Community, posts complaining about how they were clueless about how to clear the third floor in Hard difficulty came up often.
In fact, even the first challenger of the third floor in the Hard difficulty, who got there during Round Two, did not manage to move past the third floor when it was nearing the end of the Round Three.
The people from the Hard difficulty were, overall, frustrated.
Even I, who was watching them, was also frustrated.
The Hard difficulty’s third floor was similar to Hell difficulty’s second floor in many ways, especially the area where the heat continued.
That was the issue.
“So build up resistance!”
“How am I supposed to raise that? To raise the resistance, I need to be half way to death, and the waiting room is super far away. What if I died while trying?”
‘You just need to tough it out right up to just before your death and go back.’
“Also, burn resistance! The burn resistance! How am I supposed to raise that one?”
“By the way, honestly, what’s the point of the burn resistance? The corridor doesn’t even have any sunlight coming in, so what burn? Do you get burn from going to a steam room?”
‘You can get burned here, you dumbass.’
“Why don’t you just use a heat stone and make fire to raise the burn resistance?”
When I said that, people stared at me with an odd look in their eyes.
It was not ‘oh that makes sense’ kind of response. It was ‘what the hell are you talking about?’ kind of response.
Because it was such a bother to explain it through words, I decided to just demonstrate it with my body.
I brought out a heat stone and a fabric from my inventory.
I wrapped the heat stone with the fabric and rubbed it quickly.
Shortly after, the fabric caught fire.
I dropped the fabric to the floor, gathered dry grass from the surroundings, and tossed them in.
“You can make a fire like this.”
However, these runts were focused on something else.
“Hey! Is your hand all right? Wasn’t that hot to hold?”
“Does anyone have water left in the inventory? Bring a cold one! Cool it for now!”
“… It’s fine. It is not hot. Actually, it is hot, but it will get healed automatically in this place, so why are you all up in arms about it? You can increase your resistance skill this way. Got it?”
Kim Min-huk, who was watching from the side, said as if he was just throwing it out there.
“So, what levels are your resistance skills?”
“Level 4 for the heat and cold. I think it is level 7 for the burn.”
Having heard what I just said, the people had similar responses.
“… Your resistance skill level is 7? Are you even human?”
“It doesn’t seem to be the case here.”
“Um. Definitely not. You. You don’t have problems with your nervous system somewhere, right?”
“If I was born with a body like that guy, a body that cannot feel anything, I wonder if I could clear the third floor?”
‘I think I better not tell them what level I am with the pain resistance.’
At that moment, sound of commotion could be heard from a distance.
Having heard it, people’s heads turned to the direction, and some of the rankers’ faces darkened.
The Representative Federation made an entrance.
* * *
An uncomfortable stand-off continued.
It had been going for 30 minutes already.
“So, that’s why I am telling you to show us that proof of yours, little bro.”
Having heard Lee Chang-suk’s words, Kim Min-huk promptly closed his mouth.
Most of the information we obtained about the Representative Federation was from the people that spied and reported to us about them.
Unless we obliterated the Representative Federation now, the people who reported us the information could be retaliated against after Round Four began.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that Kim Min-huk was a good guy.
The way he treated others, his moral, his way of thinking, his behaviors… All of them showed that he was an earnest young man.
However, he was too soft, which was his biggest drawback.
If he was just a little selfish, he could have brought forward the people as the proof. If he did, he would not be suffering humiliation like he was at the moment, and he would not be shaking in fury either.
Of course, if he did bring the people forward, I would have been disappointed in him a little.
“I know that we do not exactly get along well with rankers, but acting like this is not right, little bro.”
Lee Chang-suk kept on saying similar things. I ignored him and looked around.
People were slowly backing away from the scene.
The mood was turning violent. Fearing they might get engulfed into a fight, they were pulling out, distancing themselves.
There were some who were watching with excitement and anticipation for a possible fight.
Shortly after, a group from the Representative Federation showed up and a few rankers walked out in response.
The two groups greeted each other with a smile, as if they were already familiar with one another.
From that point and on, the balance of the forces was completely handed over to the Representative Federation.
In the end, our side’s forces were made of few rankers from Normal difficulty, and I was eventually added to the group soon after.
The other side was made of a large number of Easy difficulty challengers.
Their floor levels were low. They were the people who intentionally gave up on clearing the Tutorial since the Round One.
There were a few from the Normal difficulty rankers and Hard difficulty challengers in the mix.
Moreover, I couldn’t know for certain if there were any among the rankers on our side that were actually connected to the other side.
Also, their associates could be among the spectators who were watching from a far.
As for our side…
Our side was mad from the top of the head.
It seemed Kim Min-huk was completely infuriated from watching Lee Chang-suk spitting out lies after lies with a casual look on his face.
‘If a real fight broke out, I wonder how many of the people here would try to fight seriously? Especially when they are at a disadvantage…
There probably won’t be many. There will be just Kim Min-huk and a few.
Including myself, perhaps four or five?’
This was the reason why Kim Min-huk was not thinking about just charging in and solving this by force.
Behind the Representative Federation…
The members of the Representative Federation were standing in a row, in a long line.
It was as if they were trying to block the view so we could not see the people behind them.
I could tell immediately the difference in floor levels between the members of the Federation and the people standing behind them.
Their attitude, posture, and facial expression.
The situation was more serious than I thought.
The people were choking in fear. Their fear stricken faces were far more serious than I thought.
While I was looking at the people behind the Federation members, my eyes met with a girl.
She was a student wearing a worn-out and torn uniform.
‘She is still wearing something like that. That means she does not have the points for purchasing equipment.’
The problem was the look on the girl’s face.
‘How could I describe that…’
She had a serious, determined look on her face. It was like the look of an independence activist during World War II against the Axis powers.
No matter how I looked at her face, it was certain she was hell bent on doing something soon.
‘What is she trying to do?’
When her eyes met mine, she maintained the eye contact and nodded her head slowly.
It was like someone signaling to say I should get ready, and the moment was now.
‘Hey, just what are you going to do? I have not heard anything about any plans.’
It was awkward.
At that moment, the girl made a sudden, large movement.
In the world that was slowed down, the girl ran forward.
Moving past the people who were blocking her front, in a straight line, she made a dash toward me, still with the same determined look on her face.
Behind her, a hand which was trying to grab hold of her shoulder was slowly approaching.
Based on the muscle movement on the top side of the hand, vertically raised angle of the finger, and dark red light surrounding the surface of the finger…
‘It is some kind of skill.’
* * *
‘Lee Ho-jae. That man must be him.’
There were people who looked frustrated, unable to sit still or were just looking around, but he was calmly standing among those people.
‘Of the people who are called the rankers, that man is the only one who might be able to help.’
That man was calmly looking around the area.
He was not even thinking about talking to the pigs around him.
He was like that from the start.
As soon as he faced the pigs, he moved his belt with the sword attached. He moved it a little to the side and hid a small sword behind.
After that, with one of his arm behind him and standing a little apart from the people, he had been cautiously watching the place.
He was completely different.
He was completely different from the pigs around me and the bastards over there who were nothing but talk.
He was different through his appearance alone.
As if they were purposely matched, he wore black equipment on the top and bottom, and had belt, boots, gloves, three long and short swords, and even a heavy looking shield.
There was almost no realism to it.
He had so many items. It meant he purchased them all with points.
‘When this day of great harmony ends, the Tutorial will continue again.
Soon, Round Three will end, and Round Four will start.
After that, there will be three days of standby.’
I didn’t have much time left.
This day of the great harmony was my last chance.
To be precise, that man was probably my last chance.
On the day when my big sister died, she handed me the meat jerky that she kept hidden in her sleeves and hugged me. After that, she came next to my ears and slowly told me the information she had found from the Community.
They were not very useful in particular.
They were information I could find on my own readily by opening the Community after three days of standby and 24 hours of residency, when I ended up in the Tutorial stage by myself.
Really, they were not the kind that would need someone to risk life to obtain.
However, I remembered the information she whispered to my ear clearly, as if they were engraved in me letter by letter.
Of the information she gave me, there was one about a man named Lee Ho-jae.
He was the only survivor of the Hell difficulty.
In the Community, he was treated as a fool with overactive imagination. However, to give information to the newbies, he had been explaining about the traps all this time.
Also, he was with the Normal difficulty rankers now.
Most of the people who thought he was a fool were the Normal difficulty rankers. Considering this fact, I found it to be quite surprising.
I did not know the details, but regardless, this meant the people no longer thought of him as a fool.
All of this information told me one thing. The man named Lee Ho-jae was strong.
Not just that, he even tries to help others.
As I thought, he was the only one.
… Our gazes met.
Ah, it looked like that man also knew that I am the person who reported about the Federation and handed over the information.
I had no plan.
‘For now, I’m just going to go to him.
This is not the kind of problem that could be solved by a conversation anyway.
I have to make him take action and beat the crap out of these pigs.’
With that in mind, with resolve, I charged forward.
As I ran, my gaze was fixated at the man named Lee Ho-jae only.
He sighed with a cryptic look on his face, and then…
It was as if he never existed.
It was unbelievable, so I looked around. However, I realized that he was standing behind me.
He dusted off his hands.
He had an annoyed look on his face, and had some sort of a scribble on his forehead that shined in blue light.
* * *
There was a school girl who was just running toward me without any plan, and there was a man’s hand that was trying to catch her. Looking at the situation, I felt weary.
Perhaps I was making a late confession, but I was born with a strange fate.
My fate was the kind where I was not supposed to step up and stand in front of others.
When I confessed my first love…
When I found corruption in the student council president election…
When I went straight to the team’s owner when I could not stand the incompetency of the director…
When I visited the association because of the problems about how the new players were being treated…
Whenever I stepped up and stood in front of others to help them and solve problems, in the end, everyone was met with despair and unhappiness.
Strangely, I only made the problem bigger.
Regardless of my intent, people I tried to help ended up suffering, and this cycle continued.
I didn’t become a professional gamer for 1:1 RTS game for nothing.
I was unstoppable in WOW arena, but I couldn’t even properly act as the captain in the raid.
So, I wanted to avoid stepping up as much as possible.
However, this world did not leave me be.
Looking at the girl who was trying to run towards me and the man trying to catch her, I realized I had no choice.
As soon as I got behind the school girl, I planted my fist on the stomach of the man who was trying to catch her.
With a ‘puk!’ sound, the man was thrown to the back, rolling and rolling.
I could see the people’s faces beyond the guy.
The state the people were in, and the look on their faces… I could clearly see them.
Lee Chang-suk, no, the pig, screamed.
“What the, fuck! What the hell are you doing! Even if we are not in good terms! Fuck! Why are you beating up someone out of the blue!? What’s this for?”
The captain pig lead the way, and the other pigs around him also started to yell.
They said it was unprovoked, the young one has gone insane, and even brought up bad upbringing from parents.
“What, what did you expect me to do?”
The pigs started to yell louder.
“If you don’t like it, then bring it on, you chicken shits.”
‘This is the exact showcase of the strong preying on the weak, the thing you guys love the most. So come on.’
From the start, I had no intention of trying to talking to those runts like Kim Min-huk tried.
This was not something that could be solved by a conversation.
Those people were not going to admit their own wrong doings.
Even if what they have done was to be brought up, and even if evidences were brought up right on their faces, they probably would have said it was just a misunderstanding.
Also, there was a chance I may never see them again when this day of great harmony ended.
I had to solve this now.
Wings spread wide from my back and separated the school girl from the pigs.
When a strange gigantic blue crystal wings appeared out of nowhere and opened wide, the look of panic settled on the pigs’ faces.
I took a step forward.
“Don’t be so surprised. This is nothing. As you guys have said, let’s resolve this misunderstanding. That’s all I’m trying to do here.”
“Wait a minute, little bro. I understand that the situation is frustrating right now, but I can explain everything, you see? Little bro, it won’t be a bad story for you either. Just ten minutes… No. Just give me five minutes, and…”
I ignored the pig who was making noise.
“I think the process of resolving this misunderstanding could be a bit rough, but well… It is not like anybody can get seriously hurt in here.”
Of all the pigs, a few started to move in hurriedly and awkwardly.
‘Now that it looks like a fight is about to break out, you want to get out? I memorized all of your faces.’
Little by little, the pigs were taking steps back.
I still had a lot of time.
‘Um… I still have about 18 hours.’
It was enough for me to figure out a way to break through the system’s defense.
Fortunately, I had plenty of pigs for the experiments.
“Just think of it as raising your pain resistance, so just put your mind at ease. I’m an expert in that field.”