Soulmancer – Chapter 10: The Gatekeeper…

After his injuries healed, Izel dedicated ten hours to training his body, aiming to improve his agility stats and enhance his reflexes. He was keen on avoiding overconfidence after defeating a magical beast and yet, not succumbing to excessive caution. As part of his regimen, he also allotted six hours for rest, intending to restore his mind to a pristine condition.

Before that, “Trading Center,” Izel’s words created a rupture out of thin air. In his mind, as always, the trading center’s catalog opened up. The inner monotonous voice narrates through the catalog by category. Moments later, he shook his head: ‘Is this the extent of items I can purchase at the moment?’

He chose to purchase a new vest identical to the old, scarred one; however, it was no longer available in the trading center. Perhaps due to the high traffic caused by multiple walkers making rapid purchases, the vest lacked all the skills and items Izel would have to buy alongside it. After previewing most of the currently available items, he had a pretty good idea of what he should purchase.

“Alright, to begin…” Izel made his decision clear: “Please purchase this.”

[You have purchased Groot Vest (D-).]

[18 Verdes have been deducted.]

On the blind man’s bed lay a black, shiny, mature-looking vest with a polished matte finish. It cost a total of 29 Verdes less than the previous vest. It was the third armor-like item that the teen had purchased during his time in the fortress. However, instead of testing it out immediately, he remarked, ‘I will try it out later.’

“Next…” the feminine voice stated as she flipped through the catalog. He then selected his next item. ‘I’ll take the ‘black-slim fitted trousers.’

[You have purchased ‘Black-slim fitted trousers’.]

[9 Verdes had been deducted.]

A whopping nine Verdes are enough to feed a walker’s appetite for three days straight. It was nothing compared to the Verdes that Izel normally spent for his food supplies, but there were some Verdes that should be possible to earn back during a raid. The fairly brown-skinned teen simply shrugged his shoulders and continued shopping.

‘Cloud boots and a special black blindfold.’ He decides.

[You have purchased ‘Cloud boots’]

[32 Verdes had been deducted.]

[You have purchased ‘Special Black Blindfold’.]

[15 Verdes had been deducted.]

A pair of tonal white leather boots, embellished with a large black upward-pointing arrow across their upper, along with a familiar black simple-looking blindfold, appeared above his bed.

[Remaining Verdes: 29.]

Having only 29 Verdes remaining might feel quite low at the moment, but to Izel, it was still enough to renew his food supplies and stock up on a few low-cost emergency supplies if needed. Starting with the Groot vest, Izel began to wear his newly purchased item. Its full details swarmed into his mind almost instantly


[Groot Vest (D-).

Grade: D-

Description: A fragmentation protective coating and hard fiber-based pre-active layers that ‘Groot’ gifted the ‘Lionheart Hero’ for his hard work. Made from ultra-high-molecular, lightweight polyethylene Groot wood that doesn’t break easily and absorbs impact.

Effect 1: Activates a tree’s tentacle layers to protect its user from all attacks when health falls below 10%.

Demerit: The effect wouldn’t activate if its user was at a critical health drop of 5%.

Effect 2: 10% root tentacles attack power against impending enemy attacks.
Demerit: high mana-consumption rate according to the tentacles produced.

Effect 3: Increase the strength of the vest after taking a certain threshold of gruesome impact.

Demerit 3: All effects work with the user’s mana. Standby operation drained mana exponentially due to its overly pre-active layers’ mana conductivity. The vest can only withstand C-rank impacts.]

It was a pretty valuable item, in contrast to its whopping price, and it boasted ample effects compared to his previous vest.

‘Plus, its demerits are bearable, with creepy effects,’ Izel thought as he put the vest on. To his surprise, it fit perfectly without training. Imbuing mana into the vest, he was able to tell that its mana conductivity was on another level. His mana enveloped its detailed pre-active layers and flowed smoothly.

But such high quality and durability did have their flaws, such as high mana consumption and… Moments later, he felt his mana decrease exponentially.

‘Which also seemed to be true according to its last demerit.’ He paid close attention to the item and retracted his mana. These could also be the drawbacks of its insurmountable characteristics.
One of the things that caught his attention was the phrase ‘made for a hero.’

He clicked his tongue, wondering what kind of human he was. Later, he deemed it a ridiculous reflection. ‘It doesn’t matter.’ Whoever he truly was, that didn’t change the fact that he had to fight non-stop if he wanted to stay alive in this fortress.

He put on the black slim-fitted trousers. Instantly, its full details tickled his mind.

[Black-slim fitted trousers]

[Grade: None

Type: Wears

Description: A low-cost piece created and made by the designer in an unknown alley. Weight reduction spells had been applied to its raw materials as well as the inbuilt belts, allowing the wielder’s movements to be even more agile and flexible than before.

Demerit: Wear and tear occur according to the increase in body weight. Being low-cost, the materials are also of poor quality; it is advisable to change after a year or so to avoid body overheating.]

As information swiftly raced through his mind, a kind smile graced his lips. ‘Finally, a terrific pair to replace the last,’ he thought. However, his satisfaction waned when he noticed the demerit at the bottom.

‘Ah! To think such a demerit could render low-cost wear unsuitable for long-term use.’ Yet, it seemed a fair trade-off for weight reduction and ‘agile’ features. Considering this aspect alone, disregarding the demerit, comparing it to his previous charred trousers seemed trivial. He had acquired those trousers handsomely in the second tutorial, valuing their ‘wear and tear resistance’, not to mention the ones he strode into the fortress wearing. Moreover, these new ones boasted built-in belts. Running his fingers over the quality black smooth fabric, Izel nodded proudly, imagining how stylish he would appear. ‘I bet I’m going to look much cooler.’

Truthfully, he favored his prior attire, which never required thrashing and perfectly suited the fairly brown-skinned teen managing his hard-earned Verdes. However, as ‘these’ were the only option currently available, he had no choice but to purchase them. ‘No, it wasn’t really a choice. Who knows if the previous option will still exist in the next hour?’

Surprisingly, the trousers were more comfortable and adjusted better to his weight, making him feel lighter in them.
‘Even the inbuilt belt securely holds onto my scabbard,’ he marveled. Putting it to the test, he dashed around the waiting room, feeling no discomfort whatsoever. He felt notably agile. Suppressing his satisfaction, Izel shrugged his shoulders.

“Moving on…”

Next, he sought the item he had been confounded about, his face slightly contorting as he clapped his hand to find its location. Retrieving it from the ground near his old longsword scabbard, his fingers explored its form.


‘Uptowns.’ Bewildered, sweat beaded down his cheek as he realized his mistake. Although it bore some resemblance to what he had in mind, it was actually the ‘Cloud boots’ he had purchased. Sighing with a tinge of disappointment, the full details flooded into his mind.

[Cloud boots.

Grade: D.

Description: These are the black boots that its creator, ‘Newmark’, had specially created a long time ago, but its owner, the chieftain of a tribe, ‘Mule’, had one day lost them amid a bloody battlefield, and they had been lost and forgotten in time.
Active Effect: While imbued with mana, the user can grant a 50 percent boost to his or her movement speed produced solely by agility.

Note: Purchase the ‘Stats Boost Long Collar Cardigan Cloak’ to utilize the effect to the max. Without it, the user would sustain irreversible muscle damage from flesh reaction shock and body overheating from a 25 percent movement boost.

Demerit: The active effect can be used again after 24 hours of cooldown time.]

Amidst his admiration, evident from his gentle smile, the boots reminded him of ‘uptowns’ he couldn’t purchase on Elilaum due to their incredibly high price. Despite being disgustingly pricey, the effect and ‘Note’ indicated that these were indeed the right boots needed for the full utilization of the ‘Stats Boost Long Collar Cardigan Cloak’ agility effect without any drawbacks. He couldn’t suppress his smile, no matter how hard he tried and nodded with satisfaction. ‘All I can say is that this sh*t’s worth it.’

The last piece of equipment remaining would be the ‘Special Blindfold’ for his vision.

[Special Black Blindfold.

Grade: None.

Description: A black special blindfold that could only be utilized with a special visionary skill. It comes in a variety of colors and materials.

Demerit: It could only be sold and used in the fortress of Dungeons…]

‘As always, it’s the same,’ Izel thought, familiar details flowing through his mind. He clicked his tongue, frustrated by the insufficient demerit still affecting his vision.

He sighed, twitching his eyelids. The tickling pain had subsided further, ensuring it would be fully healed before the next raid. “Seems that’s all; let’s continue the training,” he muttered.
With a concentrated look, he rose from the bed, placing the blindfold into his inventory, where it vanished. After ensuring everything was in order and adjusting his clothes, the blind man resumed his training with his Aurora short sword.

The C-rank Dungeon Raid starts in 15 hours and 9 minutes.

Steadily, Izel immersed himself in training, adapting to his deficiencies and controlling his strengths. Apart from mastering his reflexes and adjusting to his high agility stat, he also needed to acclimate to his recently acquired gear, particularly his Aurora short sword, which had significantly shortened his reach.

“This is so much fun, hehe,” he remarked, unperturbed by the vast amount of skills he needed to acquire. The more he trained, the more he found himself enjoying it. Time flew by, and thirty minutes had already passed. During that time, he grew more accustomed to wielding the short sword and harnessing his inhuman agility stats.

In simple terms, when he aimed for full speed, his cloud boots not only assisted in guarding his footing but also amplified the control of his calves, a skill he had recently mastered. However, without his ‘Cloud Boot,’ he could only manage 85% of his agility speed and a 22% improvement in control.

He could only maintain almost full speed for ten minutes before losing control again—an improvement from training while sustaining injuries and fatigue. However, despite the healed injuries, he felt his progress was minimal. Giving himself some credit, he acknowledged that without the waiting room, his improvement wouldn’t have been possible, if at all.

Thirty minutes later, he improved several deficiencies, including reflexes, and almost fully adapted to the effects of his newly acquired items, except for his [Flawlation], which was still affecting his eyesight.

Suddenly, a deafening BOOM! echoed through the room as dense mana streaked by at breakneck speed. It was accompanied by chains of various attacks relentlessly bombarding the white wall. Shrapnel scattered around, and dirt and dust filled the air.

Healing all injuries and status fatigue. This effect is consistently applied in the waiting room.

As the gush of dust began to disperse, he gasped for air amidst the gray vapor, feeling a gentle light sweep over him as the room’s auto-recovery triggered.

“Wow, to think I could deal this much damage,” he exclaimed, momentarily stunned by the aftermath. The waiting room bore the marks of his battle—craters, shattered walls, and cracked floors—a sight he couldn’t see but could sense through the cacophony of loud sound waves and dominant mid-range pitch frequencies assaulting his ears. Dust brushed around his nostrils, creating a tingling sensation.

Though the wall remained stationary compared to his enemies, he never imagined himself causing such a huge, distorted mess. Despite the chaos, a sense of enjoyment washed over him, prompting a reverent smile to tug at his lips. As the dust faded completely, he mused aloud,
“Is… this quite nice?” His lopsided stats, once despised, now shed new light on his path of repetitive training.

‘I guess I’m doing the best I can.’ It wasn’t because he suddenly became a prodigy in fighting or training; he just felt a bit ecstatic about trying his best to catch up to the experienced and prodigy-like Walkers. As the waiting room also healed up in a few minutes, he began to train again.

His body fluttered; his heart vibrantly beat faster, and his whole body grew more alert compared to a while ago. He began to feel more alive. Perhaps he was slowly going crazy as his body repeatedly got healed while he energetically trained as if he were in a trance.

‘Was it normal to feel like this, despite knowing I could die at any moment?’ he contemplated with a happy smile. Or maybe he was just an awkward teen from the start; he just never realized it. He couldn’t answer those questions, but he knew one thing: ‘No one knows what they have until they have lost it all.’

After all, this was also the first time Izel ever had a chance to build potential; he never knew its purpose. No, rather, he never got the chance to figure out the fortress objective for inviting him. But as a blind man with an ultimate goal and ambition, all he could do now was work tirelessly toward that self-created purpose.

“I needed to grow beyond surviving the next raid,” he muttered, hoping for those days to arrive sooner. ‘I guess that’s enough training,’ thought Izel as he moved to the white, comfy bed. He unsheathed his shortsword, had a few meals, and then took a six-hour short nap.

The C-rank Dungeon Raid starts in 1 hour and 3 minutes.

As the timer’s countdown jolted his mind awake, he struggled to slowly open his eyelids, the tickling pain within them finally subsiding. Despite being unable to see, he felt relieved that things were unfolding as he had predicted.

Still half-asleep, he contemplated how he would survive the upcoming raid, just fifty minutes away. Lost in thought, he managed his dinner and engaged in exercises to invigorate his stuffy body. As always, the waiting room alleviated his fatigue and exhaustion.

Time swiftly passed, marked only by the ticking of the clock. Its sound was undeniably cruel. Suddenly, an alert resounded, signaling the imminent moment. With just 10 seconds left, Izel swiftly removed his special blindfold from the inventory before…

The C-rank Dungeon Raid starts in 0 seconds. Time up.

Deactivating the ‘Extreme’ difficulty—fortress operating system; the Broker, Trading Center, Inventory, and Forums.

The long-awaited moment had arrived. Izel quickly tied his special blindfold around his eyes and secured his partially burnt pocket-sized bag around his wrist. It was time to embark on the next raid.

Do you accept the C-rank mission?


“Yes,” he said, ruffling his white-silver hair back, causing a few bangs to fall onto his forehead. He was well-dressed for battle, resembling a ripper. ‘Fully prepared,’ he nodded to himself as he entered the flatly oval portal. It was time to test out his ten hours of training.

* * *

As Izel’s feet confidently stepped out of the portal, he understood that he had done the best he could to prepare. To survive and live another day, he knew he had to succeed in this raid at all costs.

Entering the C-rank Dungeon.

Difficulty: Extreme.

Starting the dungeon theme.

In front of the blind man, gargantuan, archaic citadel-like fortresses emerged enveloped in crimson flames. Aye, they were super-sized, boasting tall fortresses over a hundred floors high, standing erect as if to pierce the heavens above. Were he not blind, the mere sight would induce extreme dizziness by looking up.

This foreign vista was filled with desperation, despair, and agony. His mind couldn’t help but remark, ‘It feels as if I’m standing before hell.’ Though they appeared as a red hue emitting from black contours, spreading outward and skyward in his [Flawlation], an ominous sensation still tensed his neck.

Accompanying the resonant glow of the hell-like flames, searing sounds loudly resounded through the pitch-black, foggy atmosphere. Izel couldn’t help but wonder about the intense heat within those fortresses. After the portal fully disappeared, the pitch-black fog began to clear, revealing a massive gate in front of the burning buildings. Above, a vivid eclipse gleamed. ‘Such a creepy sensation!’ he thought.

The C-rank raid is commencing soon.

Raid condition: Assassinate the gatekeeper.

Raid Failure: Walker’s Death

Raid reward: Holy Water of Titanium.

After the flurry of messages, he noticed that no matter how bright the searing flames were, they couldn’t penetrate the thick, dark fog. Furthermore, sound waves seemed disrupted upon nearing the fog. In short, battling amid the fog would be disadvantageous due to its differing temperatures.

From this observation, he felt the ground, wet and chilly. Izel concluded there was a temperature difference between the cold and hot regions, neither overpowering the other.

“What a rare sight to behold,’ he admired.
‘I wonder how the gatekeeper would be.’ The fairly brown-skinned teen began imagining who or what the gatekeeper might look like. As curiosity grew, caution followed. Izel understood the stakes; failure here meant certain death. He shook his head, took a deep breath, and ventured deeper. Fear began to grip him as no presence resembling the gatekeeper manifested, except for the large gate ahead.

‘It might lurk in the shadows, trying to catch me off guard,’ he speculated. Swallowing hard, he assumed an alert posture, right hand on the hilt. As he approached the gate, it seemed he had to reach a specific point for the gatekeeper to sense him. Tension mounted in his chest.
Unable to inspect the fog’s depths with his sound reading, memories of battling the goblin king stirred within him. Heightened alertness drove him to keep his guards close.

As his steps cautiously crossed a certain threshold, a gate knob unlocked, echoing faintly. Was it instinct or nervousness? His eyes widened beneath the blindfold as he leaped backward.


The gatekeeper had sensed your presence.

The gatekeeper will spawn in 10 seconds.

After receiving the concise messages, cold sweat beaded down his cheek as he exhaled with a touch of grace. These familiar words indicated that the ‘opponent’ hadn’t surfaced yet. It was the monotony of these words that exerted more psychological pressure on him.

Initially assuming it might be lurking in the shadows, the recent message suggested it would spawn randomly from somewhere.
Consequently, there wasn’t much he could do in this perilous situation but wait. Patiently, Izel kept his guard up, feeling his body quiver and the tension grow.

His heart raced as if he were driving a Lambo truck; he continuously swallowed dry saliva enough to fill a bucket. Truthfully, he wasn’t overly scared; he was simply on edge due to an adversary he knew nothing about. ‘The gatekeeper of what?’ Even the name alone felt suffocatingly ominous.

The gatekeeper is spawning now.


Immediately following the message, a peeved shout reverberated deafeningly, coinciding with his eardrums being assaulted by a spurt of blood. Despite the thick, dark fog blocking sound waves, it seemed imperceptible to the gatekeeper.

As a gust of shredding wind loomed towards Izel from the left, his [Flawlation] alerted him. He forcefully twisted his body, instinctively conjuring a superfast, flimsy barrier to mitigate the unseen attack.

Regrettably, it proved insufficient. The feeble barrier shattered almost instantly upon contact, causing aftershocks that trembled his hands. It had been a desperate attempt, yet he had never imagined a mere gush of wind could shatter the barrier that had spared him from certain death during the avalanche.

That wasn’t the end of it; the attack was potent enough to elicit a groan from him and thrust him three meters back.

Momentarily panicked, Izel exhaled deeply, swiftly overcoming his trembling arms and returning to his stance.

After leaping back to his initial position to confront the new foe…

Assassinate the gatekeeper, Brotnos.

After the grand announcement, the gatekeeper, who had once sufficed his mind, finally emerged. A shadowy humanoid figure slowly strode forward, wielding a greatsword brimming with a rivulet of eclipse.

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