I opened my eyes after feeling the sunshine pouring in from the window.
It’s been a really long time since I’ve been awakened by the sunlight.
There was no sunlight in the waiting room and the sunlight at Kiri Kiri’s field was not strong enough to wake me.
Something was missing. I groggily fumbled around my surroundings.
Park Jung-ah, the one who should be lying next to me, was nowhere to be seen.
I just lay there with vacant look on my face for a while. I remembered Park Jung-ah saying she had something to take care of early in the morning and leaving the room while I was still pretty much asleep.
I got up and sat on the edge of the bed.
I hit the bottle with my foot. It went off rolling.
It was the wine bottle that Park Jung-ah brought yesterday.
It rolled and rolled. It eventually hit the room’s door. Looking at the bottle, I thought about Park Jung-ah from yesterday. She was leaning on the door and asking if I would like to have a drink with her.
She probably wanted to say it in cool, composed tone. However, she had awkward look on her face mismatched her intentions. Her voice was completely out of whack like an elementary kid who just entered a debate competition for the first time.
She looked awkward, but she was adorable.
Park Jung-ah entered the room. As for what happened after drinking…
The bottom half of me did its morning stretch after waking up.
It wanted to go pee.
I fixed my pants and thought about last night.
Um… Did I go too far?
I suddenly got worried. Panic flooded into my mind.
She may look like an adult, but she was seven years younger than me.
I think I was inconsiderate toward her.
I’m a little disgusted at myself.
Was it because it’s been so long since I did it last time?
It’s been a little over year since I entered Tutorial.
Before that… I lived the loser’s life. Even when I was a professional gamer, I was so busy that I didn’t get to date anyone.
Now that I’m thinking about this, I have not done it in a super long while.
It’s like a heavy boulder inside my heart has been spirited away. I feel light and refreshed. Maybe that’s why.
There was the satisfaction from the action itself, plus the emotional satisfaction of doing the deed.
I thought highly of Park Jung-ah, but not as a potential date.
I thought she was amazing and confident. I cheered for her. However, that was the extent of my thoughts.
I found her boldness and courage to be appealing. However, her emotionless and stiff attitude made me think of her as a skilled comrade over anything else.
However, yesterday, I got to see a different side of her I never knew.
She was cheerful. She had bright smile. Also… what I saw when it was just us last night… She was incredibly attractive.
My feelings for her may have deepened.
I got up and stretched.
Until morning, I drank and even performed a crucial ceremony. However, because my body was that of a super human now, instead of feeling tired, my body was light. I felt amazing.
[Tournament Day 2, 06:10]
I still had time left until 8 am, which was the preliminary round for the tournament.
The tournament was to take place over a total of three days.
The first day was for the individual. The second day was for the group rounds, and the third was for free activities. That’s what I’ve heard.
As soon as the Order of Vigilance was notified about the tournament, they started to gather more information about it.
Just before the tournament started, they posted all of the gathered information on the community.
I was busy clearing the 13th Floor, so I didn’t have the time to read this.
It was very late, but I opened the community and read about the tournament.
1. During the tournament, no protective or healing effects will be provided.
2. The very first tournament will be held for the three waiting room days before the round 16 starts.
3. First day is for individuals. Second day is for groups. Third day is for free activities.
4. Anybody can choose to participate or opt out of the tournament.
5. Once the group tournament ends on the second day, anyone can return to the waiting room.
6. Tournament will take place in multiple sessions.
7. The tournament’s size will grow over each session.
8. The second tournament in the future includes keyword, ‘foreigners.’
Of the information gathered, the Order is most concerned about the first one.
People will be gathered here for three days. People could agitate one another and cause unruly fights.
So far, it seemed nothing big had happened.
I closed the community and changed clothes.
I still had time left until the tournament. I pondered if I should go check out things outside or if I should read the magic book, but I got a message from Lee Hyung-jin.
[Lee Hyung-jin, 4th Floor: Big Bro, do you have time now?]
* * *
“Big Bro! Over here!”
You don’t have to shout. I can hear you just fine.
With my hearing, I would have heard him even if he whispered from that distance.
He was waiting for me at the opposite end of the colosseum’s main entrance.
At the open space, there were six others besides Lee Hyung-jin.
They were all challengers of Hell Difficulty.
“Oh, good morning.”
“Yes, Big Bro, good morning.”
“Hello. It’s been a while. Did everyone sleep well yesterday?”
I greeted everyone.
Until now, other than Lee Hyung-jin, the Hell Difficulty challengers were all afraid of me, so I didn’t have much expectations from greetings. However, they all brightly greeted me.
Some even smiled when they said hello.
After all, they were away from waiting rooms and tutorial stages that exuded a deadly atmosphere. They were now at the tournament with festivities. It seemed everyone was in good mood.
Lee Hyung-jin asked me about my opinion of him from the duel.
He also asked me to give advice for himself and others in areas that they lacked.
Of course, I abided to his wishes.
Other Hell Difficulty players developing further was a good thing in many ways.
I might end up doing party play with them one day.
It bothered me a little that they were afraid of me. However, seeing how they are responding to me today, I think it is going to be all right.
First, I explained what I thought of the duel with Lee Hyung-jin.
“I saw you when you were dodging my attack. Your eyes strained wide open.”
“Yes. You told me I should look carefully at the attack and dodge it. That’s why.”
Ah, you did it because you were listening to my advice?
“Um… That’s true, but it’s not easy to keep your eyes open when an attack comes. When you are moving quickly like yesterday, there is the wind coming at your eyes. Also, when the attack is coming closer to your face, we tend to close our eyes instinctively.”
“Yes. That’s true.”
“It looked like you were forcing yourself to keep the eyes open. You could see the front of your eyes by keeping them open like that, but you can’t make sense of all information you need in such a short period of time. Even when your eyes are wide open, you end up making your field of view smaller to the size of a rice grain.”
“In that case… What should I do?”
“You need to be able to keep your eyes open naturally when the attack comes. It will not do you much good if you are forcing them. Now, like this.”
Out of the blue, I swung my fist to the front of Lee Hyung-jin’s face.
Surprised, he stepped back.
Of course, He closed his eyes.
“You need to be able to keep your eyes open even in situations like this. To do this… I guess the only way is to just get used to it.”
Honestly, the problem with Lee Hyung-jin was that he was a scaredy-cat.
Still, if he didn’t even resolve a basic problem like securing a field of view at all times, he probably could not have reached the Fourth Floor in Hell Difficulty.
Also, he probably would not have been able to win four times against other challengers either.
Others would not have hesitated to challenge him either.
Lee Hyung-jin is very evasive and fast. Because of his traits, he wasn’t exposed to many actual hits by the opponents so far. He was still afraid of getting beat up and wasn’t used to it.
Because of this, when facing an attack that appears to be hard to dodge, he shrivels.
The problem only occured because he got scared of my attack and shriveled more than he should have.
“Getting used to them?”
“If this was not Tutorial, I could have trained you by getting one of those baseball batting practice machines. Otherwise, sparring against me for a week would lead to a big improvement. You are in middle of the Fourth Floor, right?”
“Yes, Big Bro.”
“In that case, go try getting beat up a lot by the goblins. Don’t dodge them. Try fighting them as you get hit. As you get used to getting hit, your eyes won’t close as much from getting scared or surprised.”
Lee Hyung-jin looked like he was about to die. He whined.
“Big Brrooooo… Do you have a different way that doesn’t involve getting hit?”
“No. Just do as I said. Toughen up and gain endurance while you’re at it too.”
I also gave him my opinion about his moves and decisions. I started to tell the other challengers about all sorts of things.
“Like this? Dodge it like this?”
A girl was breaking sweats demonstrating her dodges. Watching her made me hopeless about her future.
Her name is Oh Hye-jin.
She was a new challenger who came into the Hell Difficulty during the last round.
She didn’t even manage to get past the first trial. No, she didn’t even try.
During the challenger’s first round, water and meat jerkies were given for free.
“No, what I’m saying is… When the arrow comes at your right shoulder, then what is the best way to dodge it?”
She dove to her left side by throwing her body.
What the hell are you doing, seriously…
It seemed she thought of the most certain way to dodge it because I asked for the best way to do it.
“No… Instead, since you know the arrow is coming toward your right shoulder, dodge the arrow with minimal movement. That is the best way. Think about it. That will allow you to maintain a stable stance, don’t you think?”
“You should maintain stable stance so you can dodge the next arrow. Right?”
“Pardon? But the next arrow is… Ah, yes. I see.”
I know. Once you dodge the arrow, there won’t be a second attack coming.
You are right.
Still, you can’t just be defenseless after dodging the first arrow. You need to be ready to dodge the next attack. You need to get completely used to it.
Not all of the traps in the First Floor have perfect answers.
Some traps have no patterns.
I realized that they had completely different perspectives from me.
When it came to passing the traps, I thought of it only as a process for my growth.
However, their goals were just surviving.
It cannot be helped that they were not as interested in growth as I was.
They obtained information about traps’ order and dodged the arrows by following the information.
They lacked the ability to think independently and disliked practicing for the sake of their growths.
They were only focused on knowing the order of the traps and dodging the arrows they expected based on the information. People who acted this way died when they slipped up and decided or responded too late.
It was not like I could not understand them.
Not everyone could be like me.
Actually, it would be odd if there was someone who was.
With their lives at stake, who would choose to challenge the stage again from the beginning? Who would intentionally harm themselves just to raise their skill levels?
Also, unlike other difficulties where people had an obtainable goal like reaching the residential district at the 30th Floor, people didn’t even have hope like that here in the Hell Difficulty.
Even I still had long ways to go.
To others, it probably made more sense to hold out at the First Floor using the little bits of points they obtained and the support points sent by the Order to buy food while holding onto a desperate hope that the situation might improve someday.
I could understand them.
* * *
[Tournament, Day 2, 07:40]
It was about time for the tournament, so we all headed to the entrance together.
As we walked, I asked Lee Hyung-jin,
“Are you going to enter the group round?”
“No. Who would I team up with?”
“Why don’t you team up with the other Hell Difficulty challengers?”
Lee Hyung-jin looked surprised. He said in low voice,
“Won’t that be hard? They’ve never experienced real combat.”
“Still, it could be a good experience. Try to at least get through the preliminary. As for the main matches, try to think of them as a learning experiences and challenge them. Pick your opponents carefully.”
“Um… Would that be all right?”
It’s all right.
You guys won’t stand any chance during the main matches, but the Order of Vigilance forbade use of excessive force during the tournament, so it is possible for you guys to enter for the sake of gaining experience.
“Try it. I am not saying you should just because you could enter the group round. Even if it is just for the sake of the Sixth Floor, you need to strengthen the others no matter what.”
“The Sixth Floor?”
“That’s right. From the Sixth Floor and on, it is not going to be just dangerous like how things are now. The difficulty will escalate to the point where it will appear to be impossible. I thought it might have been impossible to clear it by myself. It was that difficult. If you want to advance further, you need to have them rise up too and join you for party play.”
I had told him about the party play at the Sixth Floor before, so Lee Hyung-jin understood easily.
“Also, don’t you think you should help them become stronger? You can’t just let them stay at the First Floor forever.”
“Yes. I’ll try talking to them.”
We arrived at the entrance soon.
Lee Hyung-jin gathered up the other Hell Difficulty challengers and started to discuss the tournament with them.
I watched them. There were sense of excitement and anxiety along with Lee Hyung-jin who was trying to convince them.
I got to the colosseum’s entrance.
[Will you participate in the tournament?]
[Individuals] [Day 1] [Complete]
[Group] [Day 2]
“I’ll participate in the group round.”
As soon as I said that, the party selection window showed up.
[List of parties you can join (5/14)]
[You can also create a new party.]
I would have made a new one for myself if I was going to enter the tournament alone. However, I already decided to enter it with Park Jung-ah, Kim Min-hyuk and others.
I came a little late because I was giving advice to other Hell Difficulty challengers. Kim Min-hyuk and others probably had made a party already.
I checked the list.
[Party Captain: Park Jung-ah]
[Party members: Lee Yuu-jung, Kim Min-hyuk, Lee Gi-jun]
[Would you like to join?]
[The party’s captain is deciding on your request.]
[You joined the party.]
[You will be moved to the arena.]
“You are late.”
“Yeah. I had something I had to do.”
Park Jung-ah, Lee Yuu-jung, Kim Min-hyuk, and Lee Gi-jun were inside the arena.
The tournament had not begun yet.
[Tournament, Day 2, 07:45]
We still had 15 minutes until the preliminaries began.
Looks like I could have came a bit later.
“Hey. This is Ms. Lee Yuu-jung. You met her last time, right?”
“Ah, how do you do?”
She had a panicked expression just like our first meeting. However, she greeted me more naturally this time.
I think people are not as scared of me today for some reason.
Is it just my mood?
As for Lee Gi-jun, the other party member, I knew him already.
During the first day of the great harmony, he was one of the first rankers that I contacted along with Kim Min-hyuk.
Currently, Lee Gi-jun was at the 30th Floor along with Kim Min-hyuk and handling the Order of Vigilance’s work.
“They actually did gather just the managers from the Order.”
The four were all residing at the residential area. Instead of clearing the Tutorial, they were all focused on the Order’s work.
People who didn’t know much about the Order’s business also believed Park Jung-ah and Lee Yuu-jung usually focused on the Order’s work instead.
In fact, although Park Jung-ah had been working hard on clearing the Tutorial because of her position as the Commander of the Order, still, she was more focused on the Order’s business than clearing the Tutorial.
So, her image to the outside was as described above.
Looks like these guys are hell-bent on appearing to be pushovers.
Now that I’m facing Park Jung-ah again, I feel awkward.
When I got up, I wanted to talk to Park Jung-ah about a myriad of topics.
However, now that I’m facing her, I cannot think of anything to say.
My eyes met with Park Jung-ah’s.
It was coincidence. No, it was not coincidence.
We were consciously minding each other’s presence.
Anyway, it seemed Park Jung-ah was embarrassed. She glanced away.
“What is this? Hey, what’s going on? What with this foul mood?”
Embarrassed, Park Jung-ah was going to say something, but she just looked at me and smiled.
She looked so adorable, so I smiled back.
We both always had emotionless and gloomy looks on our faces. Today, we were both smiling brightly, and it was great to see that.
We had seen Park Jung-ah smile yesterday on the drinking table. However, she was smiling out in the open in middle of the bright daylight. There was a different kind of beauty in her smile under this setting.
“You crazy bunch.”
I ignored Kim Min-hyuk’s curses and walked next to Park Jung-ah.
“Do you have a wooden staff? A wooden staff?”
“No. What were you going to do with it if I did have one? That bastard probably won’t die even if you had a spear to stab it with.”