Level 4 had begun.
If level 1 required a combat power below an ordinary person.
Level 2 required the combat power of a trained human, or a large, vicious dog.
Level 3 required the combat power of predatory animals such as lions or tigers.
Then what about level 4?
“Maybe around an elephant?”
I nodded while looking at the man lying on the floor. Right, an elephant was just about right. They looked just like normal human beings.
It was different from the corpses that appeared from level 1 to 3. They possessed an appearance that was incredibly similar to humans. If you took a black-and-white picture of them, it would be hard to differentiate them from humans. Of course, you couldn’t really confuse them with humans once you faced them head on. Even though they possessed humanly appearances, their skin betrayed their identity.
To be exact, they were wooden dolls – mannequins.
- Would you like to start the next battle? If you do not begin, the stage will end.
- Level 4. Difficulty has been set at easy.
- Defeat all enemies within an hour.
- Stage will begin in 10 seconds.
- 10. 9. 8. 7…
The head of a newly revealed doll was smashed apart in one blow.
“But I can still take care of them with a single shot.”
Even when I first began the world of ability users, I made a fool of a level five, lowest-tier demon, so there was nothing to be worried about right now. The difficulty wasn’t very high.
But what about ordinary people?
“I don’t know how the stage shaped, but it will definitely be difficult for anyone who is still level 1.”
I smashed them apart with one blow, but the dolls were durable. Even a bullet could not fully penetrate through the doll, getting stuck in its skin. Moreover, they did not possess any weaknesses like the eyes or anything!
- All death considerations have been cancelled!
- Congratulations! The stage has been completely cleared! Compensation will be given based on contribution.
- Your ranking is 6,891.
I burst out into vain laughter when I looked at the rankings.
“Why did I drop in the rankings? I even killed all of them with a single blow. I really can’t underestimate earth’s standards.”
As expected, there were no problems with the lowest difficulty. In fact, we didn’t even need the second test, so it ended in the first round. The regular ability users of the parallel world were more accustomed to straight up 1:1 battles such as these compared to the intermediate and hard stages, which required guides. In particular, the lowest difficulty had a short time limit, so even if there were many deaths, the rankers could easily cover them.
Although there were more than 6 billion humans on Earth, there were more than 10 million ability users. In addition, there were those who were lacking in talent previously, and had awakened new powers through the stages, perfectly adapting to the new system. Theoretically, it was possible to completely clear the stages after having to only clear the stage 100 times.
The problem was more evident in the intermediate and hard stages, where the play time became much longer.
I opened my eyes.
The surroundings became filled with noisy exclamations of joy, groans of pain, and sighs of sorrow.
“Great work everybody!”
People started to grab onto strangers’ hands and greet each other with celebratory voices.
“Sob…! It’s over! It’s finally over!”
Children who appeared to be middle school or high school students embraced each other while crying. Unfortunately, not everyone was fine.
“Ugh! Dammit, my finger’s been crushed! Someone please help me!”
“Huah… Huah… Some, someone… help…”
“Get a hold of yourself! If you suffered such a big injury, you should have challenged it again and died! Why did you just end it?”
“I, I was afraid… of dying.”
“Of course I understand, but it’s better to die there rather than come out with such a serious injury. If you don’t receive treatment in time, you could die in reality as well. Besides, look at all this blood! Hey! Is there a healer around here!?”
Some were heavily injured. The stench of blood reached me as well, but it was not as noxious as before. It meant that people were beginning to adapt to the environments of the stages.
“Oh no… I can’t remember anything since I saw the phrase telling me that the stage started.”
An old man without any injury spoke. A middle-aged man walked up to him and reassured him.
“You must have died right away.”
“Keung. It feels somewhat unfair. Anyways, my son-in-law, what kind of enemies appeared this time? More corpses?”
“No father. It was a wooden doll.”
A girl who looked to be a high-school student intervened in the conversation between the man and his father-in-law. It appeared that she was a part of the family as well.
“Did you win, dad?”
“I know because I won.”
“Wow. Dad, you’re the best! I really hate the lowest difficulty… 1:1 is just a dogfight, so I can’t do anything about it. I took a hammer and a staff, but I guess I lost too.”
The man expressed his curiosity at her words.
“In terms of difficulty, aren’t the intermediate and hard difficulties more challenging? You have to defeat five, or ten enemies that appear in the easy stage.”
“Of course! But! For the intermediate and hard stages, he exists!”
She took out her smartphone while shouting excitedly. On the screen was a man dressed lightly, wearing a steel helmet, short-sleeved shirt, and jeans.
“Oh, is he the famous Iron Mask?”
“Yeah! Isn’t his body amazing? Besides, his guides are incredible! I was only able to break through the intermediate and hard stages for level three because of his guides!”
“Wow! You know Iron Mask as well!? His guides are currently the best in the entire world!”
“After giving up on level 1 and level 2, I was able to get abilities that allowed me to break through level 3 and even the easy stage of level 4 thanks to his guides! To be honest, I had never even imagined that I would be able to beat the stages… I think he is a great man.”
People started to voice their agreement from all over the place.
Wow Dae-ha, you’re so popular.
I felt awkward and turned my head. I could see office workers who were gathered to talk after finishing work.
“Honestly, I’m glad it was a wooden doll. Sir, I cleared level three hard, but zombies are just so disgusting.”
“It was still pretty creepy. They looked exactly like a human being except for their skin.”
“Wow, did Chief Park manage to clear it as well? You’re a wizard, right?”
“Fire magic worked wonders.”
“Kuhahaha! I cleared it five times!”
“What? I thought you were Kang Hyun Bin, but I guess it was God Hyung Bin! What did you buy from the vending machine?”
“A pill for my qi. I only have two months of qi and I’m dying.”
“Fuck, if you look at martial arts novels and stories, even nobodies start with 60 years’ worth of qi. Why are we forced to deal with mere days and months?”
Gwanghwamun Square was full of people, much more than usual when the Citizens’ Square is filled with tourists and such. Not only the square, but also the surrounding buildings, parking lots, and roads were filled to the brim.
A lot of people are gathered.
It was a huge number of people, easily over hundreds of thousands. The sheer volume of people was many times the number of people that participated in the historical demonstrations that went down in Gwanghwamun Square Moreover, the overcrowding wasn’t only affecting Gwanghwamun Square.
Apparently, similar scenes were being reproduced all over the country, including playgrounds, auditoriums, legislative buildings, and town halls. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that virtually most of the citizens were out of their homes.
This is amazing. It’s not like anyone is forcing them.
In fact, there was no reason to gather to enter the stages, because there was no such thing as party play in the horror game.
However, people were scrambling to gather before entering the stages, as if someone were pointing a gun to their heads. At least dozens, and as many as hundreds of thousands were gathered. They cheered and encouraged each other before the stage started, and after each stage, they once again encouraged and congratulated each other. They shared their opinions on how to get through the stage, cried, laughed, and comforted each other.
“A hearty lunch box for only 1,500 won! Delicious 3-tier sandwiches are being sold for 500 won! If you are hungry, put your money in the bucket and take one with you!”
“Good work everybody! There is no second test today, so have a wonderful night’s sleep!”
The government also encouraged this type of atmosphere. If there were any injuries or deaths (not yet, of course), it was easy to take action if people were gathered together. In normal circumstances, it would be common for the government to be worried with such a large gathering of people, but that was not the case right now.
This was an unprecedented crisis with human extinction on the line.
It wasn’t a situation to argue and bicker over mere politics.
“Oh, by the way, have you seen the news? I heard that there is a lot of trouble in China.”
“That’s right. There are demonstrations taking place everywhere, with protestors numbering in the hundreds of thousands. The government’s forcibly suppressing them. North Korea is basically in a state of civil war as well.”
…Naturally, there were groups who acted in nonsensical ways even in the face of human extinction. It appeared that dictatorships and countries with similar governance models were thrown into chaos. The situation was even worse with China, especially after their ability users were massacred after invading the Lee Family.
‘Well, it’s none of my business.’
Next evening, I once again sat down on the floor of Gwanghwamun Square.
A lady spoke out of the blue, and I turned my head towards her. She handed over an object to me, which turned out to be a folding chair.
“You should sit down on this! Oh! And drink this water too! Cheer up! You got this!”
“Ah, yes, yes…”
I accepted the water and the chair with a bewildered expression, and the lady stuck out her thumb before moving on, handing out chairs to others in the vicinity.
Hmm, this is rather…
A muscular man was sitting in front of me face-to-face. Obviously, it was Ares, and he was only visible to me.
It’s quite a warm atmosphere considering that it’s the apocalypse.
‘I know. I didn’t think it would be like this either.’
In movies, cartoons, or novels, you often saw how humans acted when faced with an inevitable crisis. If the earth was to be destroyed tomorrow, they would loot, commit arson, and let loose all their vicious and evil desires that they had not dared reveal due to laws and regulations. Such was the most common development in the apocalypse.
But the atmosphere right now, here, was completely different.
Is it because they cannot feel the reality of the apocalypse yet? Because they think they will get through this?
‘More than that, it’s probably that the heads of each country are doing their part. I’m certain that the Great Wizard made adequate preparations.’
I gave a halfhearted answer and sat down on the chair that I received from the lady. It was still summer, so the day was long. I could see the sun slowly setting in the distance.
“Are you ready?”
Seon-ae asked me. Even though she didn’t go to school anymore, she was still wearing her uniform. I looked at her, or rather, I looked above her head.
Won-il High School
Skilled Martial Artist Lee Seon-ae
She had been level three when I first encountered her, but she had passed level four and finally reached level five. It must have meant that she also cleared the stages, raised her levels and stats, and took some pills.
“Well, I’ll just continue doing what I’ve been doing.”
“You seem pretty relaxed. There are a lot of people who find it scary.”
I started to express my confusion.
“Cheer up, everyone! You can do it!!”
“If you have a hard time on the first test, then just hide and clear it tomorrow morning after taking a look at the guides!”
I took out my smartphone and checked the time. It was already 6:59 P.M.
“Everyone is deathly afraid. That’s why they force themselves to raise their voices and cheer for each other like that. They can hold on because at the least… they know that everyone is forced into that space without any exceptions.”
I looked around once again. Now that I thought about it, the faces of the people shouting were a bit contrasting to their words. Well, they would have to fight a life-and-death battle with an unidentified monster in a little while, so there would not be many people who enjoyed the situation.
“I’m having fun though.”
“What? Are you a psychopath?”
Level 4 intermediate stage began as I grumbled.
- All battles have been completed. Of the 6,106,756,249 participants, 1,205,508,765 have passed. The remaining personnel are now considered dead.
Compared to the easy difficulty, there were five times more enemies and even traps in the intermediate stage, but the initial clear rate rose from 10% to 20%.
It was due to the guides.
I continued making them. Through as many attempts as possible and research, I was able to find tips and figure out ways to clear the stages, and surprisingly, the guides became famous all around the world.
It wasn’t just me either. Numerous front-runners began to pour out guides. There were even people among them who found elements that I wasn’t able to recognize, but Iron Mask’s guides were still the most recognized. People, and even creators of other guides, began to praise my work like some sort of bible.
Level 4 hard.
- All battles have been completed. Of the 6,083,761,423 participants, 1,500,114,000 have passed. The remaining personnel are now considered dead.
The hard difficulty of level four required an even more complex guide compared to the intermediate difficulty, but it achieved a clear rate of 25%. The difficulty was rising, but the clear rate was increasing as well.
‘The capacity of humankind as a whole is rising.’
They would buy Awakening Potions to awaken their stats and skills, then gain a class based on their abilities. They would level-up through experience potions, raise their stats, and purchase suitable equipment to arm themselves.
‘In the meantime, the problem is that the number of humans in the world is decreasing… But there are acts of terrorism by ability users, internal strife, and even wars. No helping it I guess.’
I looked at Seon-ae.
Won-il High School
Skilled Martial Artist Lee Seon-ae
She had grown once again, but she wasn’t the only one. The entire human race was growing.
- Stage will be opened!
- Level 5. Difficulty is set at hard.
Despite taking a day off and completing the level 5 tests, Seon-ae’s level was still 6.
- Stage will be opened!
- Level 6. Difficulty is set at easy.
At the end of level 6, she barely managed to reach level 7.
- Stage will be opened!
- Level 7. Difficulty is set at hard.
On the fourth week after the End Project began. Even though mankind still succeeded in a perfect clear, Seon-ae was still level seven, despite the fact she was originally from the parallel world.
“We can do it! Fighting!! We got this!”
“W, we! We…!”
A man was shouting at the top of his voice, then suddenly, he stopped talking. The woman standing next to him raised her hands and covered her mouth.
“I don’t know. I don’t know anymore. I don’t want to go anymore…”
She was not the only one.
“I’ve totally fallen behind. I can’t catch up… How many levels are there?”
“The front-runners are still producing guides, but at this rate.”
Gwanghwamun Square, which was once filled with laughter, encouragement, and support, started to fill with sobs of despair. No one had died until now, but they were beginning to feel it. The limit was quickly approaching.
- Stage will be opened!
- Level 8. Difficulty is set at easy.
- Eliminate the enemies within 1 hour.
- Stage will begin in 10 seconds.
- 10. 9. 8. 7….
A giant over three meters was roaring at me.
I laughed because I was dumbfounded.
“Is this for real?”
Instead of charging, the ogre turned around and snapped a large tree about the size of an entire street as if it were nothing more than straw.
After effortlessly snapping a tree, it casually hit the top of the tree off as if cutting hair. In an instant, a huge club lay in the monster’s hands.
At this moment,
The human race was facing 6 billion ogres.