I searched the entire village to see if anyone was here, but like I had assumed before, I was the only one here.
I sat on the lonely looking chair and observed the empty road for a moment.
“Well, this might be better for me.”
Honestly, I didn’t have any human contact since the second stage, so this wasn’t new to me.
In fact, I was pretty happy.
However, they always had something up their sleeves, so I wasn’t entirely satisfied.
I even thought that maybe the manager might lock me up in a small room just to give me a hard time.
“No way. How many years has it been?”
Just then, an old man covered in a tattered cloak approached.
He was holding a wooden staff that magicians usually carries around, so I assumed he was a magician.
The old man looked shocked when he saw me.
“Young man, who are you?”
The old man had a warm smile and it seemed like he wanted me to introduce myself to him.
Since he was the first person I met after entering the stage, I told him my name without any hesitation.
“My name is Kang Jin Woo.”
“I’m honored to meet you. People…call me Oracle. In simple terms, I’m a seer.”
Did this old man give himself a nickname as if he stepped into some sort MMORPG?
Well, I did think that the nickname, Oracle, was a pretty nice name.
He didn’t seem like a NPC.
The forum didn’t mention the stage having a NPC like him.
“It’s been a long time since a human walked through the Nightmare difficulty that I’m so touched. It’s probably been over 10 years.”
“Nightmare difficulty…what exactly is that?”
“Unlike the other stages, this place is special. The monsters in this place are 10 times stronger.”
It was hard to believe, but I didn’t deny it.
The Forest Trolls that I just fought were definitely stronger than the trolls that I knew of.
“You’re not surprised?”
Oracle sat in the empty spot next to me.
“The fact that the manager has taken interest in you means that you experienced some unusual events while going through the stages. I understand what you’re feeling. All the people that came here felt the same way.”
“Are there other people here besides me?”
“Not now. Seeing as how the stages still exist…they probably all died.”
“Why are you here though?”
Oracle asked me the reason why I entered the stage.
The first thing I thought of was money, but.
I vaguely answered him because I thought he would be disappointed if I gave him such an obvious reason.
“The managers said that the portals will open in a couple of years and the monsters will enter through the portal. In order to survive on my own, I felt that I needed to get stronger.”
It was something I made up on the spot, but it seemed like Oracle thought I was being honest because they were nodding their head.
“How many stages has the outside world completed?”
“They…went up to the 20th stage.”
“…That’s unfortunate. It’s too late.”
Oracle’s emotions were displayed on his face.
The old man’s face was filled with emotion, but it was mostly mixed with anger and sadness.
He was probably a talented actor when he was younger.
“Anyways, I’m very happy to see another human here. Good luck.”
“Don’t go dying, young man. You might become the hope of this world.”
“I’m sure we’ll meet again. That’s if you continue walking down the same road.”
I didn’t quite understand what Oracle was saying, so I just laughed sheepishly.
Hope of the world? It sounded like those heroes that appear in fairy tales and I had no interest in it.
I’m not talented enough to become a hero anyways.
Sacrificing myself for someone else was something I’ve never done in my entire life.
There were times when I got mad because society was being unreasonable.
The old man that had a mysterious and dreamy aura disappeared right in front of me.
After not being able to feel his presence, I frowned.
‘He’s not an ordinary old man.’
Suddenly, rain started pouring down and made the ground wet.
I used a small mana barrier as an umbrella and walked around the village.
I was the only survivor in this world and that made me feel empty.
During the third stage, in order fill the emptiness within me, I trained everyday.
Instead of doing that, I needed to hunt.
“Now, let’s go get the rest of them.”
Despite of the fact that the stage was set on Nightmare difficulty, I managed to obtain some cards.
By the second day, I obtained nine of the ten cards and was in the process of obtaining the last card.
Among the rock tortoises in the sulphur zone was an elite monster.
The Sulphur Golem was my last target in the fourth stage.
As expected, physical attacks didn’t work on Golems.
It was a difficult monster since I mostly used arrows.
On top of that, since the difficulty level increased, their defense was like attacking an iron wall.
If hunter was a class, then I would probably would’ve been a top-ranked hunter.
I was hunting a large Golem by myself instead of hunting a deer or a bear.
I couldn’t have imagined doing this three years ago.
Even though I increased the amount of mana on the arrow, it didn’t really affect the Golem’s arm.
The Golem awoke from its deep sleep and turned its head towards me.
After the Golem roared, it started chasing after me faster than I had expected.
I continued shooting the arrows while maintaining a safe distance from the Golem.
After being chased for five minutes, I succeeded in luring the monster to the desired location.
The Golem fell into the pool of water that I made before and it started flailing around.
But that only lasted for a moment.
I dug it so deep that their entire body would fall into the water.
The Golem would slowly be buried under the water since it’s unable escape from the trap.
As time passes, their tough skin will loosen up and will eventually peel off.
The smell of sulphur started rising and covering my mouth and nose didn’t help.
After 30 minutes, the Golem’s body disappeared completely and traces of them couldn’t be found within the water.
Other Golems are weak against water, but the Sulphur Golem was extremely weak against it.
Thanks to that weakness, I was able to take them down without much effort.
“Have I obtained all the cards?”
After inserting the last card into the book, I fulfilled the requirement of the fourth stage.
A smile appeared on my face because of how proud I felt about the achievement.
“I’ll rest at home and come back later.”
Starting from the fourth stage, survivors are given the choice of either returning to the real world or going on to the next stage.
Because of this, the survivors that are still alive are able to continue exploring the stages.
I thought that I would be given a choice as well.
“You have successfully cleared the fourth stage. You will now be moved to the fifth stage.”
I got mad at the manager’s sudden decision to move me onto the next stage.
“Hey!! Why are you deciding this on your own? I want to go home first and rest.”
“Don’t worry. The fifth stage will be at normal difficulty, just like the other survivors.”
“What…do you mean?”
“We have to resolve the unbalanced nature of the fifth stage no matter what.”
The Managers were having a meeting about the fifth stage.
In this stage, the war between the Orcs and Elves continued and the survivors were sent in to help and in return, help them grow.
“When comparing the ratio between the two, the Elves have more support. 95% of them support them, so instead of giving them a choice, how about sending them to help the Orcs?”
The Fourth Manager expressed their concern about maintaining a balance between the two sides.
“Even if we send all the survivors to support the Orcs, they won’t be able to defeat the Elves. Out of the 20 bases, 16 of them have already been destroyed. On top of that, their strategy is useless. It’s unfortunate for the Orcs, but…”
The Fifth Manager carefully expressed their opinion.
“This all happened because of that strange rumor about how they’ll be given the chance to sleep with female Elves. I can’t just stand by and watch the Orcs get killed.”
During the meeting, the Fourth Manager hit the desk and aggressively supported the Orcs.
But a couple of the Managers remained quiet.
The Managers that observed the stage knew of this fact, but knew it was honesty.
There are cases of female Elves sleeping with the survivors they make a strong connection with.
But, this was something they couldn’t just stand by and watch.
They were currently in this situation because the rumor started spreading more.
Female Elves are known to be disoriented, so there has been survivors that lost their lives after showing interest in them.
“From the survivor’s perspective, they’ll want to work with good-looking and beautiful Elves, rather than terrifying Orcs.”
The human’s image of Orcs and Elves were unbalanced as well.
They imaged Orcs as being violent and brutal.
They believe that Elves that gathers together, seek harmony within nature.
This was the image that most humans had.
However, when they actually meet them, they find out that their image of them is wrong.
Despite this, it’s difficult for them to change their idea of them because that’s what they’ve known all their lives and because of their physical appearance.
“I…do have an idea.”
The 13th Manager, who was sitting at the end of the table, quietly raised their hand.
“How about sending him?”
“Are you talking about the survivor that’s in Nightmare difficulty?”
“I approve. The Orcs needs a hero-like figure right now!!!”
The Fourth Manager flailed in excitement and instantly agreed to their offer.
The other Managers were discussing with the people that were next to them.
“But, you all know what the Nightmare difficulty means, right? Sending someone that’s currently growing to a normal difficulty stage in order to resolve the issue is a bit…”
“Changing the game through one person isn’t going to be easy. The survivors may not know, but there are one or two strong soldiers among the Elves.”
“Hm, has there been a case where a survivor that was in Nightmare difficulty was sent to a stage with normal difficulty?”
“There has been. The Ninth Manager handled it, but isn’t this a totally opposite situation?”
The Managers were discussing whether to send him or not.
The First Manager intercepted.
“Let’s vote. Including myself, all 13 Managers will vote.”
The result was 8:5 and they decided to send Kang Jin Woo to the fifth stage.
And the First Manager spoke again.
“The atmosphere of the overall stage isn’t going the way that we expected. Either humans buy or sell items or, they come into the stages thinking that this is all a joke. Because of this, I’ll be adding another rule to the fifth stage.”
The other Managers listened carefully.
“…During the fifth stage, all the survivors that lose the war will be permanently exiled. Whether it’s hundreds or thousands, it doesn’t matter. All of them.”
<Fourth Stage #2> End.