After a brief moment, Izel adeptly tapped his feet on the ground, locating his garments neatly arranged in the corner of the room. The blind man proceeded there, methodically donning each piece. Despite a lingering hint of blood scent, still faintly present and tickling his nostrils upon concentration, the overall discomfort was now more manageable than before. He sheathed his Aurora shortsword into its scabbard, worn around his wrist. Once finished, he continued listening to the forum while seated on the white linoleum floor, back against the white wall.
Frost: There’s something I want to say about the B-rank raid.
Frost: According to the high-walkers, the B-rank raid isn’t individual like the others, but some sort of group raid.
The perverted one: A group raid? What’s that? Some sort of special raid? Are we ‘SWAT’ or something?
Nightcrawler: Lolz! Everyone here would be given the same raid.
Freaky Friday:… Maybe ‘Frost’ didn’t get what the high-walker said. Or perhaps I’m the only one who doesn’t understand?
Little Lily: Nah! I don’t understand either. Pls, explain who does understand.
Shortly after, a random Walker brought up what seemed to be the objective of the B-rank raid. The Forum became enthralled by the subject to such an extent that it quickly rose to the top of the trending topics.
Frost: At first, I got to chat with a high-walker who, at some point, mysteriously entered our Forum. I asked him or her about the B-rank raid, and all he or she told me was to be careful in the rank group raid. That was all. The chatter vanished like it never existed.
Cos-[Needs to be Git Gut]: So you never got an explanation for that answer, huh? Seems suspicious!
FiniteVoidSosLine: So guys, I just got some information about the B-rank raid using my Query point.
In other words, Frost, whoever he or she may be, shared that they had an enigmatic encounter with a high-walker. This high-walker issued a warning regarding the B-rank group dungeon raid but then abruptly disappeared from the forum without providing a complete explanation of what he or she fully meant.
Of course, Izel, engrossed in the chat, shook his head, finding the situation suspicious. Amid his doubts, ‘FiniteVoidSosLine’ utilized his query to ask ‘Beelzebub,’ the closest entity to the administrator, about the ‘B-rank raid,’ seeking clarity and satisfying curiosity.
Meanwhile, also intrigued by the unfolding events, he paid close attention to the forum to understand what he or she figured out.
FiniteVoidSosLine: According to Beelzebub, the B-rank raid is said to be a group raid. All the walkers from all [difficulty] who pass the C-rank raid would be going through the dungeon together.
Mueue [Pigeon Fucker]: Yeah, you’re correct. 35 walkers from all difficulties will be randomly shuffled, grouped, and placed on the same raid into three Walkers per team.
“So it’s true,” Izel sighed. Although surprising, a preposterous raid befitting a B-rank seemed plausible. The collaboration of walkers from all difficulties to raid a dungeon, or perhaps a strange niche, was imagined as an unthinkable raid that had a low chance of happening in the Fortress of Dungeons.
‘Yet, it’s truly happening in the next raid,’ he thought, somewhat nervous yet excited. Even so, he chose to calm his racing heartbeat and focus more on the next conversation.
Frost: It seems skeptical and weird. So that’s why I’m telling everybody.
BOOKWORM: My good deeds for helping the elderly have been greatly rewarded.
BearlyAlive: Yeah, yeah, take it easy for a second…
Arrogantyoungmaster: It’s still interesting to know that we’ll be facing the next raid together. I wish to be with two beautiful girls. Like some milfies. So even if I died or got killed, I might as well die peacefully without regret!
Tryanomaster: I feel you, though. Nonetheless, that could mean it will be 30 times harder to complete the raid.
As anticipated, some Walkers speculated that the raid’s difficulty would skyrocket. While there were dissenting opinions, with some arguing that the Walker collaboration would ease the raid, amidst these debates, others harbored unfathomable dreams.
Carefreely, Izel nodded. ‘Well, everyone has the right to dream once in a while.’ To be honest, the blind man also harbored a wish of his own; he desired teammates with whom he could, at the very least, form friendships. However, he quickly dismissed such thoughts. ‘This is the Fortress of Dungeons.’ It is indeed a harsh environment that prioritizes survival above all else. A single misstep or indulgence in self-desire could lead to a tragic end for him.
Lightdefender: This probably won’t be a raid; all teams gathered up probably told to defeat a final boss or something.
Humblest Cultivator: Nah! Team up, my ass! The objective of this mission is ‘battlefield survival,’ so we might have to fight each other.
Inevitably, the Fortress of Dungeons compelled Walkers to pit each other for survival, setting the stage for the next raid. Izel grappled with uncertainty, questioning whether the impending clash would manifest as a straightforward battle or a clandestine ambush with a singular goal. The setting, whether within a dungeon or some peculiar niche, remained elusive. In the end, he concluded that the vanquished would meet their demise, while the victorious pressed forward. Both mental and physical strength were prerequisites for delivering the fatal blow, leaving Izel in contemplative unease. Could he, indeed, take another human’s life?
FiniteVoidSosLine: That’s all my question could get. That’s what I know.
FiniteVoidSosLine: I wish I had more questions like some people—I would have asked for more.
Representing Envy: If anyone has more information, please share it.
Soon, a deep silence fell over the forum as each Walker ceased chatting, signaling the ominous calm before the impending raid. Izel surmised that no one would expend their Query points seeking additional information, and even if they did, the collective decision to withhold such details prevailed.
The Walkers, once comrades in arms, now stood as clear enemies.
Indeed, those seasoned by experience, stats, and skills honed in various difficulties were poised to clash in a battle for survival. The blind man, tense from shared information, couldn’t shake a peculiar sense of anticipation and nervousness.
‘Why didn’t they share this information a few minutes before the raid? Why now?’ With turmoil swirling within, Izel took a moment to calm his heart, focusing on his breath. ‘What could be his or her goal?’ Shaking his head, he conveyed skepticism towards the entire noble undertaking. However, he soon exhaled deeply, recognizing the futility of questioning the chatter’s intentions. Whether deliberate or coincidental, kindness or strategic move, there was no concrete proof.
Moreover, refraining from current conflicts merely postpones the inevitable clashes among Walkers – they would face each other sooner or later. This raid presents a unique challenge, transcending all difficulties from [Easy] to [Extreme]. The weight of contemplating murder burdens every inexperienced Walker, Izel included. As thoughts raced, lingering questions filled their minds. Were they truly strong enough to survive? Izel, if not blind, would have found himself deep in contemplation, staring at the white ceiling. Could he take life for personal gain and survival by slashing or thrusting through blood and flesh?
A hopeless, dry laugh escaped Izel. “Hahaha! Everything just keeps getting more complicated every single day.” He couldn’t seem to catch a break. Even though he anticipated having to act to save his life and reputation, steering clear of a regrettable future required preparation for the looming showdown. Victory was imperative at all costs.
— — — — —
[Providing a weapon.]
Following the concise message about a weapon, a sword plunged into the sandy earth before him, its sharpened edge spanning about 28 inches—a true longsword, crafted from iron. Despite surviving two tutorials through sheer brutality, Izel, taken aback, clicked his tongue and remarked that the ‘Fortress of Dungeons’ should have provided such a weapon from the outset.
[You have grabbed the Iron Longsword.]
Distant cries, growing louder, spurred the cloaked blind man to quicken his pace through the blood-stained, sandy terrain. He was taken aback that the lurking monster had already detected him. As he hastened away, the creatures swarmed relentlessly from beneath the beige sand. Despite his efforts to escape, a log-like worm lunged at him, interrupting his desperate retreat.
A peculiar, deflated cry emanated from beneath, towards his feet. This was the outcome of Izel’s innate skill, [Sound Reading], enabling him to preemptively detect sound waves and potential bodily responses. Additionally, the fighting instinct of a blind individual, who had resiliently endured two tutorials until now, rages.
[You were the Six Hundredth Walker from the ‘Extreme Difficulty’ to Kill a Desert Worm]
[Strength increased by 1.]
[Stamina increased by 1.]
Izel, conflicted by the messages popping up, flicked away the blood from his sword. Despite adrenaline coursing through his veins, his right arm trembled as if it might fall off from that stab. Briefly checking the messages, he looked down at the bug that shot up from the ground.
‘Desert Worm,’ Izel briefly thought. A beige creature with a gaping mouth and razor-sharp teeth resembled an oversized log-like worm at first glance. As it slithered across the desolate desert, Izel became its primary target. He took a deep breath, navigating the silent landscape under a plain-white sky, devoid of any breeze. Keeping a low profile, he heightened his alertness, closing his eyes to maximize the effectiveness of [Sound Reading].
In this barren expanse, desert worms hunted their prey by burrowing through the sand. Walking with open eyes seemed futile, even for Izel, who couldn’t see. With his eyes firmly shut, he delved into concentration, enhancing not only the sharpness of [Sound Reading] but also heightening his other senses. Immersed in the oddly silent atmosphere, he detected the scent of blood lingering in the air, intensifying his survival instinct.
Izel lifted his foot at the faint shriek emanating from deep within the sand.
The desert worm that burrowed up from the ground got its head crushed by Izel’s mana-coated feet and [Strength] stat of 15, stomping on it with perfect timing. Concurrently, the blind man swung the longsword in his hand.
[Mana had increased by 2.]
[Strength increased by 1.]
[Constitution increased by 1.]
[Agility increased by 3.]
The Desert Worm died, its head severed, blood staining Izel’s clothes and boots. Despite having slain only two, Izel’s overall stats seemed to approach 138. The announcement of the dungeon raid’s objective, subjugating the boss monster ‘Mother Worm,’ made the blind man skeptical. It appeared an impossible feat, yet gaining stats through slaying proved achievable.
These worms were not only dangerous but also cunning, stealthily observing and patiently waiting to hunt prey beneath the desert using echolocation and prey-induced soundwaves. As Izel walked, he recalled information from the [Cascade] Hunters’ Guild, describing desert worms as rare earthworm species living underground, holding their breath for extended periods. Large nests were crucial for these creatures.
‘Such nest…’ Izel mused, tying the Black Special Blindfold over his eyes. Activating [Flawlation], the gear-based skill obtained in the second tutorial, he slowly opened his eyelids.
SSSK, SSS! CRUNCH, CRUNCH!
‘…should probably be grouped up in an open cave space.’ The blind man halted as if confirming his earlier hypothesis. Through [Flawlation], all he could discern were the black outlines of desert worms in the cave’s depths, their presence marked by occasional sand drips. Disregarding the shifting sand beneath his feet, he concentrated on what lay in his line of sight as he ventured further into the open cave space.
[You have discovered the hideout of the boss monster ‘MotherWorm’.]
“Aah, Finally.” Izel brushed the muggy blood off his face, then quickly gulped up some water from a pocket-sized bag around his wrist. ‘Home of desert worms and the boss monster, mother worm.’ He briefly contemplated while discarding the empty waterskin. As if denying him the opportunity to catch his breath…
“SHIIII!” CRUNCH! “GRRRR!”
… Desert worms sensed the impending intruder, and they squirmed toward him, creating a disgusting sight. It seemed they forgot their cautious nature as creatures that typically hunted from below. Instead, they appeared driven by an insatiable desire to consume the bold prey that had ventured into their hideout. Izel, desperately wielding his longsword, swung at the desert worm hurtling towards him, as if his life depended on mastering the unfamiliar weapon in this brutal encounter. The struggle was evident, making it a challenging endeavor to navigate through the chaos. The worms, perhaps in their voracious pursuit, overlooked their usual stealthy approach.
Certainly, he wished to believe it was an experienced jackpot; however, the accompanying swing brought agonizing numbness to his right arm. “This… a lot stressful.” The blind man, uncertain of the existence of such a place within the desolate desert, found himself revisiting a familiar niche he had once experienced.
The desert worm was severed, and a gory spray erupted like a fountain.
Izel deftly cut down yet another desert worm, this one attempting a stealthy approach from his blind spot. Little did the creature know, that Izel possessed no blind spots. With each kill and ensuing blood splatter, he remained vigilant. Suddenly, a projectile hurtled towards the blind man at an unnaturally fast speed. Executing a skillful dodge, he infused a hint of mana around his calves and swiftly countered, slashing the creature’s head. The resulting blood spray adorned his already crimson-dark cloak in a deeper shade of scarlet. At that precise moment…
[Strength increased by 3.]
[Stamina increased by 3.]
As he gasped for air, blood beaded his face and trickled down his delicate neck. Despite the grueling raid, Izel maintained a faint smile on his lips. His limbs and legs shuddered, teetering on the verge of giving out, but he couldn’t afford to stop. The surge of adrenaline pushed him to endure the ordeal; letting his guard down even for a moment would mean facing certain death. Gripping his weapon firmly, he pressed forward, walking toward the menacing black outlines of desert worms baring their fangs. Each one, the size of a mature log, lunged toward him like a flung rope.
Izel’s longsword cleaved through the air, swiftly severing the heads of the charging desert worms. Despite his arms growing increasingly numb and exhaustion setting in, he continued to spin with full force, the sword causing his palms to bleed. In a single, determined swing, the remaining two desert worms, which had attacked from behind, met the same fate as their counterparts – heads chopped off.
[Stamina increased by 2.]
[Agility increased by 1.]
[Constitution increased by 1.]
[Mana increased by 2.]
[You have achieved ‘The Butcher of Desert-Worms’ title.]
[Your body proficiency in utilizing and controlling mana has increased by twofold.]
Upon encountering an oddly titled announcement, he found himself intrigued by another peculiar message. Initially baffled, he gradually grasped its essence. Despite a substantial increase in his constitution stat to 11, he continued to breathe heavily, feeling more exhausted after an indeterminate period of movement. Fortunately, as his body became more attuned to mana, there was a noticeable lightness to his movements. “Haaaaah!” With a composed breath, Izel closed his eyes for a moment, sensing the smoother flow of mana within him.
REMAINING TIME: 00:15:58
The remaining raid countdown disrupted the blind man’s ecstasy. Approximately fifteen moments lingered until the raid’s conclusion. “I can’t subjugate that darn Boss monster with the amount of time left.” While the goal lingered in his mind, he has since completely erased it. Despite the improvement in his body with increased [mana] stats being smaller than a speck of dust compared to before, a clear difference remains apparent.
SHHIII, SHIIIrNIK! CRUNCH!
In the imminent threat, a multitude of desert worms, larger and more numerous than before, approached without Izel needing to draw near. Resembling an overpopulated ant colony, they surged towards him. In Izel’s hand, the longsword emitted a faint bluish-green glow, a testament to his enhanced body and increased [mana] stat. As he swung the sword, bluish-green arcs lit the air, accompanied by splattering blood and falling heads.
There was a gargantuan bug-like worm, much larger than any other desert worm, besieged and with a body three meters thick and close to 16 meters in length. She feasted on the dead desert worm carcass brought to her by others in the distance. None other than the ‘Mother-worm,’ she was the mother of the desert worms. Frequently laying countless eggs, the hatched desert worms hunted anything that could be food for her. The ‘Mother-worm’ served as the boss monster in this F-rank dungeon assigned for Izel to subjugate. The full meaning of subjugation, whether by force or taming, no longer mattered to the blind man. His sole task: slay it and survive.
The screeching of the desert worms grew louder as they approached. An estimate suggested there might be two or three hundred of them. Though individually not overly threatening, their sheer numbers covered the entire cave. The situation demanded attention due to the overwhelming presence of these squirming creatures. ‘I don’t have time to deal with all of them.’ He thought.
In the face of an intense assault by desert worms, Izel leaped into the air, channeling mana to inflate his calves. Upon landing, he swiftly dispatched the approaching and nearby worms, a faint bluish-green glow surrounding him as blood rained down. With determination, he dashed towards the mother worm, intent on taking down the boss monster in one decisive strike.
His longsword, infused with a mere hint of mana, proved more effective against the desert worms. Recognizing this, he decided to concentrate all his mana into a single slash aimed at the motherworm. A stroke of luck was on his side; the blind man discovered the motherworm’s strong attachment to her offspring. As the battle unfolded, Izel’s actions flowed seamlessly, each movement purposeful. The desert worms fell before him, and with focused precision, he directed his energy toward the impending confrontation with the formidable motherworm.
The colossal mother worm’s black outline began to undulate. Strangely, her fury resulted in the unintentional crushing of her own offspring. Izel found himself perturbed by the sight. “You let your emotions get the better of you; what a lack of common sense.” The mother worm advanced swiftly, her speed a serious matter. Within range, she lunged at the blind walker, attempting to engulf him in a single bite. Ominous sounds echoed as her sharp teeth clashed, yet nothing found itself ensnared between them.
The mother worm emitted a bewildered cry…
… as a blood-stained longsword thrust into her head.
The Mother Worm emitted a haunting howl, the echo of agonizing pain coursing through her nervous system. Blood splattered, creating a macabre scene.
“Thank you for letting your guard down.” Izel drove his blood-stained sword repeatedly into the monster’s head as if his own life depended on ending hers. With urgency, he swiftly ascended onto the boss monster’s body.
The Mother Worm thrashed violently as the blind walker mounted her. Swiftly realizing the threat, she rolled over, causing a chaotic explosion of sparks that sliced through his blindfold, leaving it precariously hanging on his face. However, this revealed a vulnerability – her exposed belly. At that moment, Izel’s longsword pierced through her stomach in a relentless assault. Blood erupted, showering the blind walker, while the bluish-green light around his sword intensified. Seizing the opportunity, Izel continued his merciless onslaught. The wounded belly of the Mother Worm became increasingly ragged and shredded as crimson blood splashed around.
Amid agony, terror, and impending doom, the boss monster, writhing with these emotions, once more revealed her sharp, corrosive teeth to the blind man.
[The longsword Effect has been activated.]
Izel infused his longsword with all his magical power, deftly cleaving the mother worm’s head in half.
REMAINING TIME: 00 : 00: 12
As time ceased its countdown, Izel gasped for air while perched atop the lifeless mother worm amidst a gruesome mountain of desert worm corpses. The slashed black blindfold slipped from his face, cascading down alongside…
[Flawlation had been forcibly deactivated.]
… and a surge of overwhelming exhaustion engulfed him, accompanied by a throbbing pain that welled up in his eyes.
— — — —
Izel’s dull-sharp eyes, adorned with scarred golden pupils, opened slowly. His breath, shallow and heavy, betrayed the weight of countless nightmares. The past had tormented him repeatedly, each nightmare leaving him jolting awake in a cold sweat. Yet, this particular dream diverged from the usual horrors, standing out in its own unsettling way.
Slowly, he reflected on achieving a title that had slipped his mind. He acknowledged it wasn’t entirely his fault; the system never displayed titles. Amidst this, a throbbing sensation in his head persisted, akin to being struck by an electric current.
Soon, he realized his body refused to respond—head, feet, arms, everything immobilized. Stiffness and pain enveloped him, joints rigid as a rusted iron door lacking constant oil and lubricant maintenance. Sensations dulled to the point where he couldn’t feel his legs, arms, and even fingertips without intense concentration.
Unfazed by the familiar negatives he had encountered before, he lay flat on the white-comfy bed, a prisoner to the cramped space, his stats and [mana] powerless against it. Despite this, one nagging worry persisted: ‘I’m so hungry and thirsty.’
Overwhelmed by helplessness and distress, he succumbed to the indefinite silence and darkness of the waiting room, his discomfort intensifying. Incessant growls emanated from his stomach, their protest amplifying, while his dry-parched throat stung with each passing second.
Within the waiting room’s oppressive atmosphere, he lingered, yearning for respite from both hunger and thirst. The sensory onslaught heightened the torment, making every moment feel insufferable.
Just how much time had passed…
“…I must… meet… Jane Austen soon,” he muttered through from his dry, stiff lips. To accomplish that, he had to escape the oppressive confinement surrounding him and successfully conquer the next dungeon, starting with the first.
‘AHHHhhhh—ARGHHhh!!!’ His agonized scream reverberated through the depth of his soul as he forcefully channeled mana through every fiber of his rigid body, determined to move once more. The excruciating pain was both familiar and alien, a paradox that intensified the urgency of his quest.
The B-rank dungeon raid starts in 13 hours and 47 minutes.