Moments later, No. 1 and No. 2 completely stopped working.
Even though I didn’t know much about machines, I wanted to fix them, so I started taking them apart.
As soon as I removed the metal plate, I saw different colored electric circuits all twisted inside.
I wasn’t sure where I was supposed to start, so I eventually gave up on fixing them.
But, while inspecting their heads, I saw a small chip.
“You are holding No. 1 and No. 2’s mechanical system.”
I didn’t know how to use it, but I decided to think of it as a memento in case it might come in handy later on.
On top of that, it was proof that I survived the second stage.
Maybe it’s because it was so dark for the past couple of days, but the sunlight stung my eyes.
I placed my hand above my eyes to make a small shade and looked down.
The corpse of the Undead that I just fought had disappeared somewhere.
I assumed that the portal to the third stage would appear right away, so I just stood in front of the fortress, but.
Even after a couple of minutes, a portal didn’t open.
The manager must’ve forgotten about their task and must be doing something else.
I started getting annoyed after standing in the hot sun for too long that I went inside the house to avoid the heat.
With the news that one survivor cleared the stage, the 13th Manager was summoned by the head manager, the First Manager.
It was their first time being alone with the First Manager, so they looked at themselves in the mirror before knocking on the door.
The room just had two sofas and round table that was sitting between the sofas.
It was a simple room that didn’t have any eye-catching decorations.
“I got your report. That survivor cleared the second stage graveyard, right?”
“Yes, that’s correct.”
The way that the First Manager talked had dignity and grace caused the 13th Manager to check his behavior first before sitting down.
“Now that I think about it, there aren’t that many people in the world that cleared the graveyard.”
“Yes, it’s probably because their surrounding suddenly changed and they’re unable to adapt it and also, there are a lot of cases where the survivors fight amongst themselves and kill each other.”
The second stage was divided into different parts and the graveyard is known to have a low completion rate.
In the sad, gloomy atmosphere, the survivors were required to fight with the group of zombies.
On top of that, the survivors that were part of the fortress were required to work together, so one person’s competence could decide the outcome of the battle.
“I heard that they raised the difficulty level, but they managed to complete it with ease.”
“It’s probably because they were already strong from the first stage…On top of that, after they took down the skeletons in front of the ruin, the gears that they obtained were the highest quality items in that stage.”
The 13th Manager kept on explaining the situation, but the First Manager was so surprised that they continuously read through the report again and again.
“If they were able to complete the graveyard, that means they received a passing grade for their mentality.”
“That sounds about right.”
“The reason why I summoned you was to discuss that survivor’s next stage.”
“The next stage?”
The First Manager handed them a document.
The 13th Manager accepted and immediately looked through it and carefully read through the information.
It was regarding the production of the next stage.
“Are you thinking abouting sending them here?”
After they finished reading it, the 13th Manager handed it back with a stern expression.
The document contained information regarding a stage that the Third Manager made as a joke long ago.
It was an odd stage that didn’t have any balance and was filled with the manager’s preference.
Of course this plan was rejected at a meeting a couple of months ago.
On top of that, everyone agreed to it.
“How about sending the survivor that you’re in charge of to here?”
The 13th Manager couldn’t hide his perplexed expression.
There wasn’t a way to find out their motive, but the smile they had on their face looked cunning.
“It’ll take at least a week to create the stage and leaving the survivor during that time goes against the policy…”
“It’s already been created so it doesn’t matter.”
The First Manager took out a cube that contained a small hologram.
The cube contained a video and a world that looked exactly like the plan that the manager made.
“If he proceeds to the third stage with his current skills, he’ll be able to clear it without any issues. On top of that, he learned Skill Breaker. I want to support him.”
The 13th Manager looked confused.
Just letting him be will cause him to grow stronger anyways, so was there really a need to create a stage just for this one survivor?
There are humans that are stronger, so the stage was created to help them become even stronger.
The First Manager’s plan couldn’t be considered as incorrect.
The survivor, Kang Jin Woo, was already maintaining a growth rate of 200%, which was way above average.
Even amongst the large group of survivors, he stood out and was considered one of the best.
However, when there were survivors that were above 150%, the First Manager never took interest, so it was odd that he was interested in Kang Jin Woo.
“Um, would it be alright if I asked what you’re planning?”
“Is it odd?”
“If it goes according to your plan, then this survivor might…”
“It’ll most likely take them a long time to return to the real world, right? Why, are you worried?”
As if he was asking him to refrain from asking those kinds of questions, the 13th Manager pouted a bit.
“I apologize, but after seeing how the other managers started making fun of you like this, I wanted to try it too.”
“Please be careful. It’s really unpleasant to hear from my perspective.”
Out of the 13 managers, there were only three that were females and as the youngest one, the other managers pretended to like them, but they were actually making fun of them.
“Hm, going back to the reason…Out of the top ranking survivors, I believed that it was time to pick one that’s useful. The others had their own clans and groups, so it was hard, but this survivor is by himself. They probably wouldn’t complain even if we threw them to a secluded location.”
“Aren’t you accepting this too easily?”
“If he becomes stronger, then my performance will improve, so there’s no reason to be against it.”
The stronger Kang Jin Woo becomes, the more fixed his position will be amongst the other managers.
He felt bad towards Kang Jin Woo, but if gets promoted from his current position, he’ll be able to defend him if an issue arises later on.
On top of that, depending on his efforts during this stage, he’ll be a few steps ahead of the other survivors that he’s been competing with.
“Then it’s decided.”
I thought they would open the portal if I just waited for a few minutes, but.
Even after an hour, they didn’t open the portal.
“Ahem, I apologize for my lateness. I will now activate the portal for Kang Jin Woo, the survivor that passed the second stage.”
The manager appeared after clearing their throat and they hurriedly opened the portal as if they felt bad.
I wondered what the next stage was going to be like and hoped that it wasn’t as dark as the second stage.
After passing through the purple vortex and walking across, I ended up on top of a mountain that I don’t know the name of.
Due to the air becoming thin all of a sudden, I was starting to lose consciousness as if I was suffering from altitude sickness.
Maybe it’s because of the strong wind and the high altitude, but the place was covered in snow.
I saw my breath escaping from my lips.
I wonder what they’ll make me do here.
Unlike the second stage, this one didn’t have any buildings near me.
“If you spend 30,000 hours here, you’ll clear the third stage.”
“What…did you say? Can you say it again?”
I hated the sudden information that they gave, so I requested the manager to provide a more detailed explanation.
However, they didn’t say anything.
As if they had already left the place, my surroundings became very quiet.
“30,000 hours…I think that’s 1,250 days. Three years and a couple of days.”
I became cool-headed and started calculating the time I had to spend here.
If they wanted me to endure it, I could, but there wasn’t even a monster here, so I wasn’t exactly sure what they wanted me to do.
There was no way for me to find out their motives.
“First…I should look around to see if I can find anything. Right…let’s find something.”
I learned from experience that even if I expressed my frustration, it had no use here.
Even if I asked them to send me to a different location, the manager wouldn’t change the decision they’ve already made.
I thought that there might be something below the mountain, so I decided to start exploring this stage.
<Third Stage> End.