Over two meters tall, bulging muscles, violent face…
Even at a first glance, I could tell that they aren’t small fries.
On top of this, their armaments were quite impressive as well.
They wore quality metal armor and wielded metal weapons.
However, the Hell Difficulty’s mountain goblins’ true power lies in their intelligent combat execution and well-planned formations.
Two soldiers with shields stood at the frontline with two spearmen right behind them, using their long spears to keep the enemies in check.
Behind them are two archers providing supporting fire from relatively safe distance.
They even have a swordsman to fight off the enemies that manage to break through their defense. The seven-soldier formation is not easy to pierce.
Challengers who had always been in groups when fighting monsters must be feeling uncomfortable.
Unlike their past experiences, they would now have to do the reverse and be the monster who runs wild, aiming to break through a team’s formation.
The power of a proper formation had been proven many times throughout the humanity’s long history of war.
There is only one thing that’s needed to break the formation alone: overwhelming power.
Overwhelming power in comparison to the goblins.
There are not many challengers who possess such power.
The Tutorial had completed fifteen rounds already. However, only few challengers had been charging forward wholeheartedly toward growth and clearing stages since entering the Tutorial.
There are probably only a few challengers who could overwhelm the goblins.
To think that these goblins would appear at the preliminary matches…
Now that I think about it, it is a good setting.
First, those who are not used to or are weak in solo fighting will be disqualified.
Considering that this is the individual round, people who were familiar with supporting others from the rear are unlikely to do well.
The lower floor challengers who entered the match out of curiosity will also get disqualified.
The difficulty is appropriate for weeding out challengers who lack the qualifications to be in the main match.
On top of this, these goblins are defense oriented. Considering their tendencies, they are perfect opponents for the preliminary matches.
It’s just that, for me, they are such a disappointment. What a letdown.
I looked at other rings.
“Kuuuuhhhk… I… I surrender!”
That was quick.
An archer was pouring out a barrage of attacks from a distance, but he quickly declared his surrender soon after.
The goblins had their shields in the front and safely closed the distance toward the archer.
When they got near enough, the swordsman that was standing behind the shields quickly dashed forward and tackled the archer to the ground.
The archer immediately declared surrender.
The goblins were teleported away, and the archer was teleported to the stands.
From the looks of it, I think the challengers who specialize in long-distance combat will have hard time getting past the preliminaries.
Unlike challengers who had been shying away from combat or healer types, many of the ranged fighters had entered the tournament.
It seemed they were thinking they could achieve victory before the distance closes in and becomes a one-on-one duel. However, their strategy didn’t work at all against the goblins.
The ring next to the archer held a challenger with a heavy axe. He was pounding away diligently at the goblins’ gigantic shields.
What the hell are you doing? It’s not like you are chopping down firewood.
That’s a waste of your strength. What a numbskull.
If he wrestled with the shields like that, the battle will be decided the moment his stamina runs out.
Um… I think more will be disqualified than I thought?
I can see some challengers whose lives might end up in danger if they don’t surrender quickly enough.
Challengers of difficulties other than Hell don’t have much experience in fighting intelligent opponents like these goblins.
Of course, I’m sure the rankers at higher floors probably have met such, but…
“Why aren’t you guys moving?”
[T… This human is speaking our tongue.]
[Kek. Don’t be fooled. It’s a whisper of the devil. Kiiiak.]
“Instead, why don’t you guys just surrender?”
As Kim Min-hyuk said, during the first part of the tournament, it would be best to not showcase too much of my power.
If possible, it would be better to go through this quietly.
I won’t get many experience points even if I slew them anyway.
[S… Surrender? Are we allowed to do that? Kiiiiac.]
[I don’t know. Is it alright if we surrender?]
They whispered to each other and entered a discussion.
They exchanged opinions for a long time. Suddenly, they had vacant looks on their faces.
It’s a response similar to when Idy tried to recall her past.
[Kiiiiac… Kek. We must fight.]
It seemed the system was making it mandatory for them to fight.
“In that case, it cannot be helped.”
I took a step forward, and the goblins’ eyes shook wildly in fear.
[Kiiiaaak! Kiiiac! Please, go easy on us!]
One of the goblins were especially cowardly.
“I got it. I’ll go easy.”
[Fool! You must not expect mercy from the devil. That will lead to a disastrous outcome.]
Why do these guys keep calling me the devil? We’ve never met before.
That’s spoiling my mood.
I kicked off the ground and jumped to the front of the shields.
I pounded the top of the shield with my feet.
Along with loud echo, one of the shield soldiers and an archer got thrown to the outside of the ring.
I lightly swung my fist at the other shield soldier who was clearly dumbfounded. The soldier’s jaw was turned. I took his shield and smacked the swordsman with it.
I dodged the spears thrusting towards me and narrowed the distance.
As for the spearmen, I struck them both equally at the pits of their stomachs. They fainted.
As for the remaining archer…
The goblin nodded hard.
[Yes. Go easy! Go easy!]
I am not sure if he is asking me to go easy on him or deliver him a swift, painless death.
“Try turning around.”
I struck the rear side of the obedient archer’s neck and he collapsed on the spot.
This is the first time for me to successfully make someone faint by striking the rear side of the neck.
This is hard to use for some reason in real combat.
I cannot say that I skillfully made him faint like how the main characters in movies do. I just struck him with a decent amount of force and forced him to consciousness, so it looked rather crude.
Anyway, I think I met the challenge condition for the preliminary match.
[You passed the preliminary match of the tournament’s individual round.]
[The main match of the individual round will start at 12 on the first day of the tournament.]
[Would you like to move to the stands?]
Nah. I didn’t even get warmed up yet.
Besides, I can feel the other challengers’ gazes from the stands.
They don’t need to be so surprised. What I did is nothing compared to anything else I can do.
* * *
As soon as I moved to the stands, I went to find where Kim Min-hyuk in the stands.
“Hey, I told you to hold back.”
“I did hold back.”
“Yeah right. I saw two goblins being thrown off the ring from just one kick. I definitely saw it with my own eyes.”
“That’s what I mean by holding back.”
Next to him were Park Jong-shik and Park Jung-ah.
So, the leaders of the Order were all gathered here.
“Big Bro Jong-shik. Did you not enter the tournament?”
“I did. I cleared the preliminary match first and got here.”
“What’s there to say ‘Oh…’ about.”
I can imagine that a ranker of Hard Difficulty on par with someone like Park Jong-shik passing the preliminary match with ease.
“Hey, introduce yourself to her. She will be entering the team match with you. Her name is Ms. Lee Yuu-jung. You know her, right? She is the keeper of the Easy difficulty.”
After Kim Min-hyuk introduced her to me, I said hello to the woman who was sitting next to Park Jung-ah.
“How do you do?”
“Yes. Yes. Thank you.”
What’s there to thank me about?
Is this woman scared of me too?
It seems to be the case. Her attitude screams out her fear.
“Commander, you too.”
I waved my hand at Park Jung-ah who was sitting next Lee Yuu-jung.
Park Jung-ah’s eyes suddenly widened. She panicked and said,
The pitch of her voice was all wrong, starting from the very first word.
“How… do you do?”
Why are you being so formal again?
During the last day of the great harmony, we decided that you would talk to me in casual tone.
What was all that embarrassing and awkward conversation for then?
“I! I have a place to be, so… I’ll get going first. See you all later.”
Park Jung-ah bumped into the chair next to her as she got up, stumbling with her legs before she awkwardly left the scene.
What now? What business could you possibly have today in a place like this?
Lee Yuu-jung quickly followed Park Jung-ah.
Park Jong-shik muttered as he watched Park Jung-ah leaving.
“Did her attitude get worse?”
“She is acting awkward like that because of what happened last time at the day of the great harmony, isn’t it? Hey, Kim Min-hyuk… What are you going to do? That just made things worse.”
“I don’t know anymore.”
This is a serious problem.
Last time, during the day of the great harmony, we asked Park Jung-ah to speak to me in casually. We went through that unnecessary spectacle because Park Jung-ah was being excessively respectful toward me.
In that case, how about her attitude towards me now?
This is no longer just about my position in the Order and the strength of Park Jung-ah’s leadership’s foundation. This is going to damage her image.
“I can’t think of anything in particular to fix this. What about you guys? You young people should come up with something.”
“I don’t know either. Hey, as the person in the situation, is there anything that comes to your mind? You high and mighty rascal?”
High and mighty rascal?
Now where did that title come from?
Um… A way huh…
Park Jung-ah is treating me differently probably because of what happened on the very first day of the great harmony.
It is true that I saved her, so she had a good reason to be grateful towards me.
The only problem is that she had been excessively idolizing me ever since.
It seemed that, in her eyes, I looked like a prince on white horse from a fairy tale.
In other words, because of her fantasy about me, she has a wearing a pair of distorted glasses.
I’m sure that I have demonstrated many times that I am not a perfect person from moral and personality standpoints.
Despite all that, the distorted glasses remained on her eyes.
“The tournament will end around the dinner time, right?”
“From how you are going about it, I think it could end sooner.”
“In that case, let’s go drink amongst ourselves.”
“Drinks? That’s great. Do you have any?”
Park Jong-shik, with gleam in his eyes, asked.
“Of course. I have quite a few bottles in my inventory.”
It was not a huge quantity of booze. However, it was enough for four people to enjoy.
I had plenty of snacks too.
“I like the idea of drinking too, but… will that help resolve the problem of Park Jung-ah?”
With a little worried face, Kim Min-hyuk asked.
“Well… If you show her how you look after getting all boozed up and making a fool out of yourself like a dog, then that will shatter her fantasy about you.”
“Kiiiiaaaaa. What a magnificent answer. Let’s play today like idiots!”
Park Jong-shik’s mind was already at the drinking table. He suddenly got up and shouted.
* * *
[The individual tournament’s main event, the matches will begin.]
Finally, the main matches started.
They are the main event where the challengers duel each other.
[Would you like to enter?]
I ignored the message and opened the rulebook.
The main matches had a pretty unique rule.
It was like a tag match.
Two challengers will duel, where the victor will stay at the arena, and the defeated will be returned to the stands.
With each victory, points are earned, and the final prize will be set based on the points earned.
Uniquely enough, the very first challenger who starts the match will be given bonus points. Also, the final victor has a separate prize.
There were three ways to earn any of the rewards. One could be the first challenger. One could win many times, and finally, there was winning the entire tournament’s individual round.
To maximize the rewards, the best thing to do is entering the tournament as the first challenger and achieving multiple victories until you win the entire tournament.
It’s just that…
“Hey, you can’t enter right now, you understand that, right?”
“I got it, you rascal.”
If I entered now, the main match will end like that.
I really wanted the rewards, but I don’t want to get it at the cost of pouring cold water on everyone when they are enjoying the festivities.
Of course, the prize for winning the tournament, the most important reward, will be mine.
Meanwhile, the two challengers chosen start the tournament were summoned to the arena.
They were both melee warriors.
After one minute of standby, the duel started.
This is actually pretty exciting.
The two challengers were on par with each other in strength and skills, so the duel was exciting to watch.
“Fight between small fries are most entertaining.”
Park Jong-shik muttered from the side. He shared my thoughts.
“This is super fun to watch. When the tournament occurs again, should we bet money? How about it?”
“Betting on sports? I am not sure. We shouldn’t take gambling so lightly.”
“Even if we don’t, someone else will. It would be better if we open the gambling operations instead.”
“Is that so? I’ll bring it up during out next meeting.”
I brought out a bag of potato chip from the inventory and continued to watch the duel.
Watching their intense battle unconsciously excited me.
Should I enter during the match that’s two matches after this one?
“You need to enter when it is about to end, you got that, right?”
Ugh, I think this guy can look into my mind sometimes.
“What about me?”
“Big Bro Jong-shik. You can’t enter either. Big Bro, did you not forfeit yet? Hurry up and go forfeit. Relax and enjoy the game afterwards instead.”
As days go by, I feel like Kim Min-hyuk is turning more and more into a selfish sister in-law.
Another unique thing about the tournament was that there were no other restrictions during the duel.
All items were permitted.
Expendable single-use items were allowed as well.
There was no restriction about striking critical points either.
In fact, even murder was possible in middle of the match.
This is not like boxing or mixed martial art tournament. Instead, this is closer to duels that took place in real colosseums.
Of course, the Order of Vigilance strictly forbid murder during the tournament.
They could give the circumstance a consideration if the loss of life was a result of unforeseen mistake.
However, if it resulted from even a little bit of intentional motif, they were going to punish the offender
immediately. The Order of Vigilance notified the community actively so that nobody would be caught unaware of the rules.
Not just murder, but the Order also forbid excessive harassment of the opponent and immobilizing the opponent’s hands or sealing the mouth to make the opponent unable to surrender.
Because most of the challengers who made it to the main matches were high level rankers, Park
Jong-shik choose to give up the tournament and be on the standby in case of an unexpected situation.
It was so that he could quickly neutralize and punish the perpetrator if such an incident happened.
Several of the Strike Division of the Order were already on the standby. However, some of the participants of the matches were going to be hard for them to handle.
Some said the Order was going too far on restricting things that were allowed by the system.
However, thanks to the Order’s decision, people’s minds were at ease, so the number of challengers entering the tournament out of curiosity had increased. In the end, the tournament itself became a more peaceful event.
Meanwhile, Park Jong-shik just could not help himself and entered the preliminary match. However, ultimately, Kim Min-hyuk decided that Park Jong-shik must not enter the main matches.
“Yes, Big Bro?”
“Can we switch roles? Can you be the guardian instead of me? If I win the tournament, I’ll give you the reward.”
“I don’t want to.”