Book 2: Chapter 146
It was the second day since Min Ha-rin had announced her participation and the final day of preparation for the qualifiers.
Lukas, who had disappeared not so long ago, returned to the Korea Branch Headquarters with the final team member.
Min Ha-rin was probably the most surprised out of all members in Lukas’ team. This was because she would never have expected to see this man with a calm expression standing there.
“The Human Dragon, Lee Jong-hak….”
It was Leo who muttered these words in a voice that carried a hint of admiration.
Lee Jong-hak’s fame had spread not only throughout Asia but also Europe and North America.
He was the idol of almost every person who threaded the path of martial arts and was one of the heroes that people wanted to imitate the most. From his attitude, it was clear that even Leo, who usually didn’t pay much attention to such things, was no exception.
“Huh, it seems a famous person has arrived.”
It was Arid, whose fame was in no way lesser than Lee Jong-hak, who said those words. In his eyes, there was also a spark of admiration.
Min Ha-rin didn’t find this strange. As had been stated many times before, Lee Jong-hak was one of the most famous and well-liked heroes of this world.
However, the reaction that surprised her the most, was Sedi’s.
After staring at Lee Jong-hak for a while, Sedi actually nodded her head slightly, as if to indicate that she was satisfied with what she saw.
“This one should be a bit useful.”
Although it seemed as if she was just inspecting a piece of art, Min Ha-rin, who knew Sedi’s strength and origin, knew just how generous those words were.
Of course, Lee Jong-hak wasn’t sure how to react.
This was natural. After all, a little girl, whose head barely came up to his chest, stared at him as if she was measuring his worth.
Just as he opened his mouth to say something, Min Ha-rin spoke.
“It’s been a while.”
Lee Jong-hak hesitated a bit before nodding slowly.
“…right. It seems you’ve been well.”
“Yeah. You too.”
It was a very awkward feeling.
They had once risked their lives together to escape from that place, but now, there was a cold distance between them.
Min Ha-rin couldn’t help but wonder if there was an edge to her voice. After learning of Lukas’ true identity and goal, a feeling of dislike for this had developed in her heart.
Nevertheless, Lee Jong-hak was a helper that Lukas himself had brought.
So she couldn’t just openly display that kind of attitude.
No matter how upset she was, she would never deny that Lee Jong-hak was powerful. At the very least, he was much stronger than she was, so he would be a great help.
“I never would have expected you to accept Master’s offer.”
She wasn’t being sarcastic, she genuinely meant that. She thought that Lee Jong-hak hated Lukas.
“I owe… that man. I owe him more than just my life.”
Recalling Jong Ho and the other hunters that had been sent to the Korean Peninsula, Lee Jong-hak continued.
“And my thoughts from that time changed long ago.”
That certainly seemed true.
In fact, Lee Jong-hak’s attitude seemed to suggest that he held great respect for Lukas.
“How much did Master tell you?”
“Only that a battle which would affect the fate of this world is about to begin.”
So he hadn’t been told everything.
Now that she thought about it, Arid hadn’t been with him. Without his Brilliance, Lee Jong-hak would not be able to learn the truth of the universe.
Min Ha-rin couldn’t help but feel a bit strange.
She couldn’t tell if she was happy that he didn’t get to learn the truth about Lukas, or disappointed that he didn’t know just how wrong he was.
“I don’t mean to interfere. But I would really like to help. Will you accept me?”
“That’s not for me to decide.”
Min Ha-rin shook her head as she said those words.
It was at that moment that Leo, who seemed unable to wait any longer, stepped forward.
“My name is Leo Freeman. I’ve long heard the name of the great Human Dragon.”
“Lee Jong-hak. I’ll be in your care for a while.”
Then, Arid smiled and introduced himself too.
“I’ll tell you my name later. Father, shouldn’t we leave now?”
Lee Jong-hak couldn’t stop the surprised expression from spreading across his face as he heard the unexpected title. Ignoring his question, Lukas nodded before looking over at the people he’d gathered one last time.
Min Ha-rin, Leo, Arid, Lee Jong-hak, and Sedi.
He couldn’t help but feel that at the present time, there was no team better than this one.
Time was running out. The Lightning God had said he would leave the entrance to the qualifiers near Korea, and it didn’t take Lukas very long to find it.
In the middle of the sea, not so far from Busan, was a huge whirlpool.
However, unlike normal whirlpools, the center of this whirlpool was black, similar to a black hole, or the gaping maw of an enormous monster.
The five candidates, floating in the air with the help of Lukas’ magic, all looked at this scene with differing expressions on their faces.
After a while, Min Ha-rin couldn’t help but ask with a hint of trepidation.
“…are we really supposed to go in there?”
“W-, we won’t die will we?”
“In theory, I don’t think we will die.”
Sedi shook her head as she looked at their pathetic expressions.
Lukas on the other hand remained as expressionless as ever. He knew that even though their expressions were like that, each of them had already strengthened their resolve. For a moment, he considered whether he should say something to comfort them, but he didn’t think he had to.
Instead, Lukas looked down at the dark vortex for a while before speaking.
And with those words, he released the spell that was holding them aloft.
This caused the six bodies to slowly fall into the dark whirlpool at the same time.
* * *
The surroundings buzzed incessantly as though it was alive. Light and color slowly began to blend and take shape, and before he knew it, Lukas found himself standing on solid ground.
A heavy wind blew over.
Lukas looked around.
The world he found himself standing in was barren and colorless. Large rocks floated in the sky, and there was nothing on the dry, cracked ground.
It felt like a world that was only at the beginning stages of creation.
‘Is this the battlefield created for the qualifiers?’
No matter how eccentric the rulers were, he didn’t think they’d be this laid back for something so important.
Just as he had this thought, a voice sounded in his head.
[Welcome, Participant, to the Qualifiers for the Great Game.]
It was a cold, inorganic voice.
‘What did it mean ‘welcome’?’
Lukas couldn’t help but lower his head as he felt numerous doubts appear at the same time.
He wondered whose voice this was. At the very least, it didn’t seem like it belonged to any of the Rulers.
[Before proceeding to the Qualifiers, you will first participate in a tutorial.]
Just as Lukas narrowed his eyes in confusion, the voice continued.
[The tutorial is a necessary process for us to objectively measure the power level of each participant. So we will ask you to please do your best.]
[Additionally, any injuries you might suffer in the tutorial will be reset before you enter the main game.]
[This reset applies even if the participant receives an injury that would otherwise lead to certain death.]
Reviving the death was not a task that was particularly difficult for Rulers. Nevertheless, Lukas couldn’t help but wonder why this process was necessary.
[We will now begin the tutorial.]
With a weak flash of light, a group suddenly appeared in this empty world.
It was a monster, one that filled Lukas with a sense of nostalgia.
Short, green-skinned, bipedal beings, with thin arms, protruding stomachs, and sharp, hooked noses. Each of them wielding a shabby weapon in their hands.
They looked at Lukas with eager gazes.
* * *
[You have cleared Stage 1.]
Leo panted heavily.
This was the first time he’d ever encountered these monsters, but they weren’t that strong. At best, they were only comparable to the lowest-ranked Demon Beasts. Nevertheless, the reason why Leo was panting so hard was because this was only his second real battle.
‘It’s fine. I can handle this much pressure.’
Leo clenched his fist.
Maybe it was because these monsters looked very different from Demons or Demon Beasts. Or maybe it was because he couldn’t sense any demonic energy from them.
But when it came to these monsters, he didn’t feel like he would have much trouble dealing with this amount of pressure.
He had never slacked off in his training. And he could even be called a bit talented.
So there was no reason for Leo to lose to a dozen or so goblins.
However, these guys were only the first stage.
He wasn’t sure how this tutorial was structured, but he was almost certain that it would get more difficult with each passing stage.
He couldn’t help but wonder if the others would be okay.
‘…this isn’t the time to worry about the others.’
As soon as that thought appeared in his mind, Leo shook it out of his head.
No matter how he looked at it, he was probably the weakest of all the participants on his team.
A bright light flashed as he heard the mechanical voice once again.
Leo’s eyes burned with fighting spirit.
Out of habit, he recalled Lukas’ advice.
Just because a flower blooms later than others, doesn’t mean it will be any less beautiful.
His flower hadn’t bloomed yet.