[The group round’s preliminary matches will start in two minutes.]
[Conditions of victory]
2. Defeat the enemies
[Conditions of defeat]
1. All challengers are outside the ring.
2. All challengers declare an intent to surrender.
The monster for the preliminary round was summoned above the ring.
This time, it was not from the Hell Difficulty.
It was about three meters tall with a gigantic head.
Its head is huge. I think the head makes up a quarter of his total height.
I bet this one has a hard time putting on clothes.
Fortunately for the monster, it was not wearing any clothes.
Actually, there is nothing fortunate about it.
A hideous monster’s nude fashion show is hazardous for eye health.
“What should we do? Should I go finish it quickly?”
Kim Min-hyuk shook his head and said,
“No. It would be best if you hide your strength. Sit this one out. We can handle something like this.”
“I got it.”
Kim Min-hyuk started coordinating with the rest of the group.
Although they didn’t plan for this, it seemed like they were going to fight this with a team formation.
[The preliminary will start in one minute.]
Although I decided to step back and just watch, I was not worried in particular.
Although Kim Min-hyuk and Lee Gi-jun had been staying at the residential area on the 30th Floor, it was just for the sake of Order’s work. They were rankers who proved to be of high caliber since the beginning.
They reached the 30th Floor before anyone else. Uniquely enough, they both wielded spears.
Although they were Easy Difficulty challengers, Park Jung-an and Lee Yuu-jung had reached the 42nd Floor. They were not particularly weak either.
As for Park Jung-ah, it was hard to measure her strength with just floor progression. She was far stronger than that.
She was the one who started using firearms as a main weapon. Of the firearm users, she was ranked the highest.
Recently, number of challengers who used firearms as their main weapon had increased.
In the community, they were commonly called a ‘gunner’ class.
Firearms had distinct advantages and drawbacks.
First, it was too expensive.
Both the firearms and the bullets were purchased at the store, and they were very pricy. Taking care of them was tricky as well.
To begin with, the firearms were not included in the list of starting weapons.
Because of this, it was difficult to grow skills related to wielding firearms from the start.
As for the advantages, simply…
It was powerful.
Its power was overwhelming in comparison to non-firearm weapons, so it made up for the lack of skills.
Also, the firearms purchased from the stores were made from magic and special ores and that had otherworldly powers unlike what existed in the outside world.
With enough support, a gunner could be recognized as the strongest class.
Recently, there’s been active research going on about rankers with enough points who specialize in distance combat.
Unlike other gunners who started later among the entrance floors, Park Jung-ah had been using the handgun since the First Floor because I gave her the gun.
Thanks to the support of early stage rankers who joined the Order recently, she didn’t feel the burden of the expenses either.
Some in the community said Park Jung-ah’s achievements were just a result of having overwhelming support and funds from the Order of Vigilance, and they criticized her. However, even I think Park Jung-ah has brilliant talent as a gunslinger.
Anyway, not everyone has the composure to shoot and kill someone after just one round in the Tutorial.
Moreover, she was quite the decent marksman.
She said she didn’t have experience in wielding firearms before entering the Tutorial, she must be naturally talented at this.
As for Lee Yuu-jung… She brought out a huge shield from the inventory.
It was a gigantic tower shield. It encompassed her entire body.
Is she a shield warrior who doesn’t even wield a weapon?
This is rare.
Actually, after getting used to a shield, one could use it to attack as well.
Also, the power of the shield attacks was definitely not weak.
However, few choose just the shield without any weapons in the beginning.
Most preferred a sharp weapon.
It could be used for protection, and that put people’s mind at ease.
I guess she would make a good combo with Park Jung-ah who is a long-range fighter.
[The match will begin.]
The match begun as the translucent wall that blocked the space between us and the monster dissipated. As soon as the wall disappeared, Park Jung-ah’s gun breathed fire.
The monster’s eye burst explosively.
I thought Lee Yuu-jung would play a defensive role. However, she dashed forward immediately.
From the start, the monster lost one of its eyes, and it couldn’t get a grip of the situation. The monster was struck by Lee Yuu-jung’s shield charge and fell onto their back.
Kim Min-hyuk and Lee Gi-jun, who were next to Lee Yuu-jung, stabbed the monster with their spears.
As expected, I don’t need to worry about them at all.
Still, it feels awkward to just sit back and watch.
I don’t think it would be right to act like I’m not interested. However, I’m too embarrassed to clap and cheer.
I brought out a slingshot round from the inventory and played catch with it as I watched the battle.
It was a heavy slingshot round made from metal.
Usually, it was used in conjunction with a sligh. However, I had been just throwing it at my enemies.
Using it that way was powerful enough.
‘If someone ends up in danger, I should save that person by throwing this at the monster.’
I thought about it as I watched the battle. However, the opportunity never came.
Um… I wonder if anyone would make a mistake soon.
* * *
The battle dragged on longer than I thought.
There was a simple reason for this.
The monster’s ability to regenerate was beyond our wildest imagination.
The eye that got blown up in the beginning of the battle had completely reformed. Most of the wounds on its legs, arms and body were closed.
It was probably going be difficult to defeat this monster unless its head was blown up in a single blow or its heart was pierced.
At least its rate of recovery was slowing over time.
Its recovery ability had a limit. The match was testing the participants’ ability to fight until the monster could no longer utilize its ability to recover.
It was perfect as a preliminary match opponent for the group round.
The monster’s movements were not quick. It did not excel in its attacking power but its defensive abilities based on its ability to heal.
Anyway, its recovery rate is no joke.
If only my recovery rate could be that fast.
Ah, could it be that this bastard is a troll?
A troll never appeared in the Hell Difficulty, so I don’t know how a troll looks like.
If this really is a troll, then I am a little disappointed.
The troll that I pictured in my mind all this time looked a little more ferocious and less stupid.
There was a time when my goal was to become a human troll. With that goal in mind, I used to work diligently on hurting myself, yet…
The troll running rampant and roaring.
Everyone is dodging well and continuing to deal damage to it.
As this continued, Kim Min-hyuk made a mistake with his steps and faltered for a moment.
He tripped over his own foot. That’s just plain stupid.
Did his fighting sense full from staying in the residential area too long?
Whatever. Finally, I have something to do.
After winding up my throw with all my might, I swung my arm and threw the slingshot round at the monster’s shoulder.
Along with piercing sound, the slingshot round made direct impact with the monster. The monster’s left arm and shoulder disappeared along with it.
Blood and flesh scattered into the air. The slingshot round went over the arena and flew to the stands.
Fortunately, it was blocked by the invisible barrier that separated the stands from the arena, so it didn’t cause casualties.
There were screams from the stands, followed by sighs of relief.
That was fortunate.
It’s been a while since I used slingshot rounds. I made a mistake in controlling my strength.
The monster fell down immediately. It was unable to move.
Its legs and arms twitched occasionally.
Actually, since it lost an arm, I should say its legs and arm twitched occasionally.
Anyway, it was foaming at its mouth. It unable to get up.
I looked carefully, and I saw that its heart area was crushed.
Surprised, Lee Gi-jun looked at me once. He approached the monster and stabbed it with the spear to end its last grasps at life.
As for Kim Min-hyuk…
With crumpled face, he turned to look at me and mouthed words.
‘Hey! I told you not do use your strength!’
You complain even though I saved you. Even though I saved you.
* * *
“Wasn’t that too much? How many times have I told you? Huh? I told you not to flaunt your strength needlessly. If you didn’t want to keep quiet, then you should have just said so. Why did you say, that you will stay quiet and then go back on your words? You did it at the individuals, and this time too? Huh?”
“I got it. Seriously. I am sorry! I saved you when you could have gotten hurt, but you are nagging.”
I ignored Kim Min-hyuk who was berating me from the side. I plucked a handful of popcorn and stuffed it into my mouth.
As I thought, popcorn is all about its salty taste.
The preliminary matches were not over for the group round.
The monster’s specialty was its ability to recover, so the battle dragged on longer than I thought.
Ah, as a supplementary information, the monster was not called a troll.
It was called Akinicos or whatever. It was a monster with a strange name.
Park Jung-ah, Lee Yuu-jung and Lee Gi-jun said they had work to do and left. I was sitting with Kim Min-hyuk and watching the battles from the stands.
The people from the Hell Difficulty were fighting pretty well.
They were challengers of the first floor who had put everything in their abilities to dodge attacks, so they were not even thinking about attacking the monster. Instead, they were just dodging the monster’s attacks.
I wondered if they would be able to slay the monster at this rate, but still, that counted as valuable experience.
This was different from the traps. They were facing the monster’s deadly aura and dodging its attacks.
When the people get tired, Lee Hyung-jin will kill the monster.
Really, this monster is optimal for gaining combat experience.
“Hey, were you not listening just now?”
“No, I was listening to you perfectly?”
[TL: In Korea, people use “no” and “yes” to say if the statement given is true or not. Since Lee Ho-jae was in fact listening to what Kim Min-hyuk was saying the whole time, he was ‘not’ not listening only just now, hence Lee Ho-jae said ‘no.’]
Kim Min-hyuk sighed deeply. He was quiet for a moment, but he suddenly reached for my popcorn and took a handful.
“I know, right?”
“Um. About Park Jung-ah, last night, did you guys…”
“Yep. It’s what you are thinking.”
“… Ugh. I wonder how I ended up setting up the bridge between you two.”
“What are you saying? It’s not like you did anything.”
“Do you know how worried I was because of the awkwardness between the two of you? Now that it is resolved, you guys took it to the next level.”
“Anyway, it is not awkward anymore. It worked out well.”
“... The two of you looking at each other and smiling like fools is not a proper picture. You know that, right?”
I put on a sour face and nodded.
The managers of the Order tried not to show human sides of themselves to the public.
When it comes to managing people, appearing to be super humans who lacked human emotions was better at reducing complaints even if it made a miniscule difference.
The image that Park Jung-ah had was a powerful charismatic person, with a machine-like composure and almost cruel degree of decisiveness. It was not the beautiful and bubbly personality of typical girl.
Should I act stiff toward her in public as much as I can?
Like secretly dating?
While I pondered about what to do, Kim Min-hyuk said out of the blue,
“Still, this is good.”
“Because of the happy look on the face.”
What’s this out of the blue?
“Ah, Jung-ah? Yeah, it is totally good. She just turned 20. She had so much burden on her shoulders until now. It’s great that we got to see her beam with laughter. It’s so great. Even if she is going to usually maintain a calm, business look, she should still know to smile like that when people are not looking. If she doesn’t, it wouldn’t be good for her mental health.”
I had once seriously worried about her mental health.
She was under tremendous stress and numerous restrictions. I feared that her mentality would rot away gradually and explode.
I guess she should be a little better now.
“No. I see about Park Jung-ah, but I’m talking about you. I was talking about you.”
“I saw you talking to the Hell Difficulty’s people earlier.”
“When did you see that?”
“There were people gathered at that empty field. I had to come and check it out.”
He picked up the drink socketed in the armrest. He quenched his thirst and continued.
“I wondered if the person I was seeing was really you. Um… How should I say this? You looked a little brighter. This was probably why they could ask you questions and talk with you comfortably.”
“Tell me a bit more in detail.”
I definitely felt like people were not scared of me today for some reason.
They greeted me. They even asked various questions.
I cannot just let this pass. He is saying I look different to people.
I started to think seriously about my mental condition and my attitude toward others while I went through the 13th Floor, so I have even more reasons not to let this pass.
“How should I explain it. You knew that you look super scary when you just sit with an emotionless look on your face, right?”
“Is that so?”
“Yes. You look angry as if you have a complaint. People aren’t afraid of approaching you for no reason. From standpoint with common sense, someone like you who possesses overwhelming power, will attract people like garbage to flies. But even such people are afraid of approaching you.”
From experience, I knew that my public image was not very good.
Still, it was not this bad.
“It was like this since they saw you for the first time at the very first day of the great harmony.”
During that time, I was under tremendous stress.
Around that time, I was just starting to get used to the pain. The goblins appeared, and I had to kill them. From doing so, I piled up a large amount of mental stress.
Meanwhile, the existence of the Representative Federation was slowly starting to scratch at my nerves.
Before then, I was spending the days at the Second Floor inflicting self-injuries. Before then, I had to accept the death of others who I met at the First Floor’s waiting room.
I had to get away from the fear of the First Floor’s traps and struggle for my survival somehow.
Before then… I had been drinking alcohol by the buckets. I was dying.
I was in a slump and quit professional gaming because of that. There was the thing about my father as well.
My image now was definitely different from how it was many years ago when I used to hang out with many people. This could not be helped.
“So, I was not like that earlier?”
“Yeah. It will be hard to explain in words. You have the same look on the face too. Still, you looked brighter than the usual. Your voice sounds more excited too. You’ve been like that the entire day.”
My mood is brighter? Could it happen without me noticing? I do think I look a little excited ever since the morning, but…
“You are still like that too. How should I say this, you look more comfortable? You look more human like now. You still look sharp and fierce as always, but regardless, you still look more human-like? In the past, you looked like people would get attacked just from approaching you carelessly.”
There is nothing bad about this.
The fact that my image looks brighter is a good thing.
It is a good thing, and I am thankful.
I lifted my head and looked around the stands to find Park Jung-ah.