You have entered the D-rank waiting room.
After the portal disappeared, the first thing that filled his mind’s eye was the jet-black croquis outline of the rectangular chamber. It bore an antique architectural style reminiscent of ancient Chinese-era design, illuminated by numerous white sapphires embedded in the ceiling.
Healing all injuries and status fatigue. This effect is consistently applied in the waiting room.
After receiving the concise notification, a gray mist began to exude from him, while colorful lights engulfed him, mending his injuries and relieving his fatigue. It wasn’t that surprising anymore to Izel, who had grown accustomed to the comforting presence. Compared to his first experience, he was stunned at the effectiveness of the room’s healing. Nevertheless, his pain shriveled amid the vapor.
On the contrary, it felt almost as if he had never fought a battle; everything seemed like a dream. However, the blind man knew it wasn’t. What was apparent was that sticky, coagulated blood covered parts of his body. It felt like the waiting room effect focused on essential healing rather than addressing the need for cleaning.
[Flawlation (F) has been deactivated.]
Deactivating the skill allowed his mind to relax, no longer sustaining the drain on his willpower.
He took off the blindfold and tossed it onto the simple white bed. Immediately, he retrieved some waterskins from a black, pocket-sized bag around his waist and roughly washed his face, legs, and ears. Though his boots were also drenched in blood, he decided against wasting water on washing clothing unless ‘absolutely’ necessary. Ensuring to sufficiently clean the blood off his blindfold due to its importance.
Tasting the iron tang of blood, he realized he must have accidentally swallowed some during the fight. His throat felt sour. On Elilaum, injuries similar to his would have required around three months in the hospital, unless he had the means to access an S-rank healer. In the fortress, his wounds were instantly healed, relieving one more problem to worry about.
Once sufficiently calmed, he used [Sound Reading] by slamming his foot on the ground. Strolling to the bed, he focused his senses to feel for anything new, now that he was E-rank. The soundwave bounced off the white walls and ceiling of the spacious, empty room, reflecting onto any obstacles, utilizing echolocation principles.
The room could only be described as cold and desolate.
“Nothing has changed except for the new eucalyptus-like scent, huh?” Izel clicked his tongue in disappointment at the familiar setting. The only furniture was the bed in the middle, while glowing gems adorned the ceiling. In short, it resembled the waiting room beforehand. The blind man hadn’t expected anything too unique.
“But it’s a bit of a letdown compared to the change of rank,” he sighed. The waiting room remaining unchanged disappointed him. He assumed there was no use in dwelling on it. After all, being blind meant he couldn’t appreciate any distinct setting, and his sensory skills didn’t rely on light, rendering them ultimately pointless.
“Plus, I won’t stay here for long,” he murmured to himself. His room would change again within 24 hours if he passed the next raid and upgraded his rank. So, contemplating the room’s change seemed bothersome. With that, Izel collapsed on the bed, his head filled with numerous thoughts as he faced the ceiling with his eyes closed. ‘What will the next dungeon be like? Can I navigate it like the E-rank dungeon?’ Apprehensive, his future seemed bleak.
‘Why me? Why was I invited here? No, for what purpose?’ Understanding the fortress’s decision remained a great challenge. Even after spending three days here, all his questions led to more doubts and helplessness. He didn’t know if he’d live in the fortress indefinitely or if he could return to Elilaum. ‘Anything is possible in the fortress,’ he concluded. Lying down, he breathed deeply, letting his thoughts drift away.
All E-rank dungeon raids of ‘Extreme’ difficulty had been completed.
Reactivating the ‘Extreme’ difficulty—fortress operating system.
All commands are reactivated; commands require verbal execution.
After the series of announcements concluded, Izel returned to reality.
“Finally, the Broker, Trading Center, Inventory, and Forums are reactivated,” he sighed lightly. According to the administrator’s rules, all fortress operating system commands were typically deactivated before a raid commenced. Moments later, Izel spoke up, “Next raid.”
Dungeon raids cannot be assigned at this time.
Please wait until authorized by the administration.
The D-rank dungeon raid begins in 22 hours and 15 minutes.
As he hoped, it was the D-rank dungeon. After taking a deep breath, he continued, issuing commands guided more by instinct.
The word created an invisible yet familiar rift out of thin air, sensed only by him. Within it lay a game-like, movable, pocket-dimensional interface, where items and weapons could be stored and materialized by the host’s thoughts. However, in his case, he couldn’t see the fancy interface; merely summoning any reserved items and weapons would suffice for them to appear and vanish in his hands.
In short, his inventory differed from the ones normal walkers accessed.
Currently, a few waterskins, strips of jerky, rare wheat bread, and other miscellaneous items were available, as labeled by the voice.
‘Hmm… could I have a waterskin? I’m a bit thirsty and would like more water.’ At his request, a pouch of water immediately flickered into his hand, and he gulped down its contents, feeling refreshed despite his awkward demeanor.
He summoned the Trading Center.
Once again, Izel initiated an intuitive command, and another invisible ripple erupted. Soon after, a shopping catalog materialized in his mind. With more Verdes at hand, he hoped to purchase real items. The Trading Center listed thousands of useless items, small and large, alongside miscellaneous items like furniture and even worthless skills, all categorized in his mind. Yet, after sifting through, he found nothing he required.
‘Hah… It felt like my brain would fry from overload,’ he restlessly murmured, briefly caressing his forehead as his face turned a shade paler. Despite the mental strain, he found nothing he needed. Shortly after, he interrupted the long-listing computerized voice and checked the Broker system, hoping he’d earned more Query points.
Welcome to the Broker.
You may ask questions you desire. Each question costs one Query point.
The administrator is unavailable; Beelzebub will answer any desired questions.
Query points: 1.
Naturally, Query points were utilized to pose questions to Beelzebub, the personal assistant of the administrator. However, he only had one query point for now, so he needed to use it sparingly and ensure absolute certainty about his request.
Beelzebub remained a mysterious entity closer in nature to the administrator than the Fortress of Dungeons. Each query point allowed for one question and could be accumulated over time.
Even after three days, it wasn’t enough time for a thorough investigation. Although Izel hadn’t determined who was behind this phenomenon in the brief period, he believed that as long as he survived and progressed through the fortress, the culprits would reveal themselves later.
‘I’ll hold off for now,’ he decided, stopping the beeping sound of the recorder to compose his queries. There was no need to rush into using it. He then considered checking the forum—a daily habit of his.
You have entered the Forum.
You are online.
Walker aliases are only visible to those of C-rank or above.
Anonymous 4989: Can anyone explain what’s going on?
Anonymous 3753: Right, You have passed this round; be at ease!
Anonymous 4989: I know. But I can’t still wrap my head around growing my stats all over again for the last three days.
Anonymous 3753: Don’t be anxious, just like mine. All your Walker stats will grow stronger than a Hunter’s.
Anonymous 4989: Fuck! It’s great that I will go stronger, but all my stats and skills that I had worked so hard for?! Give me my stats back…
Anonymous 3753: Pft, Hahaha! Dude, you think you’re the only one that happened to?
Anonymous 4995: Hey, I’m not even a hunter. Why did I get sucked into this and have to live as a Walker for three days?
Anonymous 4996: Lol. I’m over it now. Of course, I miss my family, but still, all I know is that if I survive this piece of sh*t, I will get to see them one day.
Anonymous 4997: Damn, bruh, you are so positive. But still, slaying monsters is growing on me.
Anonymous 4998: My first day in this fucking world will always be Memorial Day. However, I wonder if my wife has remarried or is still waiting and searching for me.
Anonymous 4999: Bruh, it’s only been three days… I agree! I was in my bathroom! I woke up in the tutorial and almost got killed by a million horned rabbits! I cried like hell, wiping sand off my sorry ass. But now I’m slaying monsters with vigor. Lmao!
Izel clicked his tongue, bracing for the familiar onslaught of messages resonating in his head. His memories rewound to the day he received the invitation to this world. Recollections flooded back of how he survived, cried, and dashed through, bleeding profusely from arrows and blades protruding from his body, resembling a porcupine fleeing a poison zombie plague, wielding a rusted chainsaw in a sizzling desert.
This chaotic forum served as an actual communication network, encompassing a myriad of voices—from cursing individuals to worried souls still concerned about their families. Izel labeled certain individuals ‘Black leakers,’ who divulged information from high-ranking Walkers to others.
From the very start, many, including ordinary non-awakened people, were thrust into the fortress without context. A staggering 80% didn’t survive the tutorial, succumbing to panic or denial. Some with the will to survive simply fell victim to unfortunate circumstances. Few were deemed worthy of the invitation, and among them, only 50% passed the tutorial, with a mere 30% attaining an E-rank.
In this cutthroat environment, everyone sought to progress, knowing deep down that nobody would extend a helping hand in this hellish scenario. Those who attempted to assist quickly realized how the world punished their efforts. “Wait a minute…” He paused in contemplation. Some high-ranking hunters claimed to have boosted their stats from the start upon invitation. However, that didn’t apply to Izel, whose stats were initially unstable after transitioning from a Hunter to a Walker.
These individuals would undoubtedly possess more strength than most Walkers due to their prior experience as hunters. Amidst the forum’s chaos, lies intertwined with truth, as sinking others’ boats meant a higher chance of survival, even if only by a few fleeting minutes.
‘Or perhaps some simply delighted in trolling others,’ the blind man somewhat disapproved. This world was more treacherous than the awakened world of hunters. Whatever transpired within the fortress remained eternally confined, while the raid persisted, unfazed by the turmoil.
Anonymous 3825: Is it true that those who are in the Fortress of Dungeon can’t get out once they’re in?
Anonymous 4994: That’s a fabricated lie. Otherwise, why would some be happy to be invited?
Anonymous 4362: Right! They could get stronger and go back to the real world to fight.
Anonymous 3567: But why hasn’t anyone returned? Even I thought it was a lie when I hadn’t heard of some returning.
Anonymous 4783: Hmm, because only the higher-ranking Walkers could get the chance to go back. Big guilds would find them first and recruit them, shutting off any news of them getting out.
Anonymous 2562: Ohhh!
A deluge of information constantly flooded the forum, often leading to chaotic scenes. Izel, while intermittently dozing or honing his skills, remained attentive. He speculated that the reason he hadn’t heard about the Fortress of Dungeons until entering it was due to the deliberate limitation of public information by the renowned guilds.
Understanding now why numerous Hunters possessed extraordinary power, it all seemed uncannily supernatural. The forum overflowed with miscellaneous data, some still beyond the blind man’s comprehension, while others, though unrelated, helped him maintain composure and mental fortitude, setting him apart from the rest.
Just as he contemplated leaving the forum, a tremendous rupture jolted the air around him, causing a vibrating sensation in his mind. Before discomfort could settle, an announcement abruptly pierced his ears.
The administrator is now online.
Before long, another grand notification clogged his mind.
Administrator XXX has joined the Forum.
After this simple yet concise notification on the forum, the stream of chats froze in its narration, while other walkers’ forum interface windows froze.
The chat is now locked.
This is the reminder procedure done by the administrator for newcomers to the Fortress of Dungeons and to occasionally remind the most experienced folk of the rules and regulations.
ADMIN XXX: This is an announcement for both newbies and experienced Walkers.
The reminder information the administrator wanted to convey was usually simple.
ADMIN XXX: I will acquaint you with how to utilize the ‘Verdes’ you’ve gained from raiding the Fortress of Dungeons.
As usual, there was no confirmation of the method used to return to Elilaum. Izel silently thought that this lack of confirmation affirmed that the high-ranking Walkers held that knowledge.
Was he disappointed? Not at all. Such disappointment was a luxury reserved for those with high expectations. He never anticipated the high-ranking Walkers to share the return method since they rarely engaged in conversations within the lower-ranked forums. If the admin had any intention of disseminating the method, it would already be common knowledge. He briefly sighed, then fully concentrated on the luxurious voice.
Unfazed by the oral content, Izel attentively listened to the following message, eager to discern its content.
ADMIN XXXX: Verdes is the main currency of the Fortress of Dungeons and is mainly used in the trading center.
ADMIN XXXX: Verdes can also be transferred and traded over the forum.
ADMIN XXXX: Within the fortress, you will not be allowed a single piece of grain without the currency, and demerits are an ‘equivalent exchange’ for survival.
ADMIN XXXX: Verdes can only be earned in raids.
ADMIN XXXX: All Fortress operating systems, such a: the Broker, Trading Center, Inventory, and Forums will be deactivated before a raid and be activated after all ‘Extreme’ difficulty raids have been completed, the same goes for the other difficulties.
ADMIN XXXX: That is the end of the announcement.
After the narration, a massive rupture exuded, and the air around him started to vibrate again.
Administrator XXXX has left the forum.
The administrator is now offline.
The grand, toneless voice began to fade into thin air, and soon after, the massive rupture completely swallowed the voice. The air turned to normal.
The chat is now unlocked.
Izel sighed, calming his pounding heart and regulating his vigorous breath. The blind man murmured, still gasping for air. “What an overbearing entrance…” His mind wandered, questioning how the mere presence of the administrator could cause such a spatial impact.
Of course, the blind man dared not comprehend such an entity. However, he knew well within his heart that it was an overwhelming lifeform, capable of regulating and overseeing the activities in the Fortress of Dungeons with ease.