[You are now active.]
[You have entered the forum.]
[All Walkers’ pseudonyms had been enabled.]
Blue Crown: Fuck, am I alive? I feel I no longer have my head.
Troy Bases: idiot, how are you typing? Fr! Did everyone die? Seriously?
Githzerai Humon: Yeah, at least 1,000 walkers are dead. However, there are still a ton of walkers in the D-rank waiting room.
James Eladrin: What the fuck? Why was there a C-rank magical beast in the D-rank Dungeon? And why did the administrator fix the hidden inventory bug so quickly?
Ghiscari Douglas: Same here, my plans almost failed because of that; I barely survived using both my passive skills. Yikes. Both my legs grew back.
The devil’s tail loves to waggle: Darn it. Keep that to yourself. Hah… Looking at the forum, a total of 1000 people were fucked. Perhaps a lot of people die because of the admin fixing the damned hidden inventory bug.
As Izel predicted for each raid since the tutorial, the number of Walkers kept decreasing as the rank of the raid rose more, perhaps due to the admin’s quick fix. Also, it seems some Walkers had many higher-rank magical beasts as the boss monsters of their raid, while others had different ones. The most important observation came next, as the blind man paid attention.
The seadog that eats weed: Wait! Y’all had C-rank magical beasts? I only fought a group of goblin kings and said I should assassinate the great goblin king without my frost sword from my inventory. How in hell will I assassinate goblin kings when every one of them looks the same? Hah, I just killed them all.
Westeros Caleb: Same here… What goblin kings? Akin to the D-rank dungeon? I had a freaking beautiful Saintess summon a ton of skeletons. Telling me to subjugate the saintess… Damn admin.
Diana Ross: Huh? Does a Saintess summon skeletons? Is that some novel… Hey! The system told you that. I don’t see any of that! I just had to survive for 10 days in some red desert with giant scorpions and giant worms. Fuck the admin, I had no food and water to consume. I felt like I ate a lot of sand, as my throat itched and hurt!
Ionia Trey: Eh? I had to fight a bunch of protagonists one-on-one in some colosseum. The objective was to steal the protagonists’ abilities. Lmao, I brought a pocket-sized bag just in case. I know we will get caught sooner or later.
The Thousand Waves: Was everyone given a different raid and objectives? I fought some golems with a lightning axe. Saying I should collect the lightning axe of the great Thor?! Yeah! Me too, I never believed that hidden bug would last this long.
As the chat streamed through his mind, the blind man could discern that each walker had been assigned different individual dungeon raids and objectives. They all seemed to find these tasks unreasonably difficult. It also appeared that almost everyone was thwarted by the administrator’s quick fixes. Well, this did disrupt his plan a bit. Izel wasn’t surprised, given that his raid was relatively brutal, coupled with such an unexpected mishap.’Thankfully, I’ve always kept my now burnt pocket-sized bag with me on raids,’ the fairly brown-skinned teen mused.
The Vegeta that slays Goku: What was so great about me that they turned me into a Walker and made us stronger? Quit complaining about the admin quick fix, Get a pocket-sized bag for 50 Verdes!
One with the heavens: I like how fast we’re growing. Since I was an F-rank hunter four days ago without being able to grow, everyone hated me for being weak and called me “The weakest hunter”, but now I am stronger and growing more. Hey don’t speak like that, do you know how costly 50 Verdes is?
Isla Necron: I hope you grow more manly. But I was a normal guy before this. I just want to get back. You have a point! Plus It’s not all Walkers that were given pocket-sized bags from the F-rank dungeon before the rumor of the hidden bug went around.
The Sexist: It’s going to take so long for me to get back to the SS hunter where I was before.
Emiya Clark: Sigh, is there even a method for us to get back to Elilaum?
The forum partially delved into discussing the method for returning to Elilaum, while the rest were content with their rapid growth or debating the 50 Verdes cost for a pocket-sized bag.
The blind man held onto one certainty: if the method or how to obtain it became known, the Walkers could return home. But which method could that be?
‘I could ask Beelzebub,’ he pondered, acknowledging that only Beelzebub could answer such queries, as the administrator was always unavailable. ‘No, I need to save it for an important use,’ Izel nodded in agreement, understanding the gravity of this query’s importance.
However, this account excludes other restless Walkers who had been confined for almost five days. They seemed to have lost interest in the situation entirely.
Damien Chelsea: Isn’t it about time we use the broker?
Miraluka: I think so. We should ask about the method of returning to Elilaum and getting our former powers back.
Little Lily: Let’s all share all the information we find here. I’ll ask about the method to get back to Elilaum. Why must it only be the high-walkers that have access to it?
Louise Maya: Correct! Why should they be the only ones? I’ll ask about restoring our former powers.
Charles Dickens: I’ll ask about how the rewards are calculated within each raid. And how we achieved different objectives from what the system gave.
At some point, Izel had thought about joining the forum; however, on second thought, he decided against it, saying, ‘I will just wait and see.’
It also seemed that most walkers tended to agree with the blind man and take more of an observer’s approach. Could it be a smart decision or a cautious conclusion? Neither way, it was simply the notion of those who thought, ‘One had more to lose by stepping up than to gain something valuable.’
Little Lily: Beelzebub answered.
Louise Maya: Really? What did she say?
Damien Chelsea: Do we have to become high walkers?
The seadog that eats weed: Come on, please. Share the news with us.
The forum was barraged with messages.
Little Lily: The method to go back is…
Little Lily: Is this…
A method to return to Elilaum started to appear in the forum.
Little Lily: Basically, you can get the method back to Elilaum once you clear the A+ rank dungeon.
Louise Maya: Is that where all the raids end?
Devil’s Tail loves to waggle: Seeing that they said the system would expand after then, probably not.
Ghiscari Douglas: Haha, in your dreams. Sub-raid development would take place.
Westeros Caleb: What? Sub-raids development… I will be damned! …Well, that should be expected since, according to Beelzebub, at that level, the administrator is planning to add more authorities and start selling an item called the runic stone to return to Elilaum.
As thoughts of unlocking more authorities in the A+ rank dungeon raid raced through his mind, Izel paid closer attention to the series of conversations. He focused intently, sifting through the chats and observing the details.
Buckley Bills: So that’s why the admin was always busy and unavailable!
Little Lily: However, the runic stone you can buy after the A+ rank raid will only let anyone return temporarily.
Troy bases: Did Beelzebub tell you how much it would cost?
Little Lily: Of course not. Beelzebub wouldn’t do that since they wanted me to ask another question, which I don’t have, so I stopped!
Blue Crown: Then we can never go back to Elilaum forever?
Vegeta slays Goku: Nah, I hear from the high walker that there’s another permanent item for that after taking the SS+ dungeon raid.
One with the heavens: So all we have to do is survive till then.
The series of conversations among the walkers had gradually died down, with an air of somberness hanging over everyone. For Izel, however, this was a significant victory. The permanent method to return lay in an ‘item’ he needed to purchase after completing the SS+ dungeon raid. “Ha!” He exhaled sharply. Ever since he had successfully survived the tutorial four days ago, his sole desire had been to grow stronger — to aim for heights beyond imagination.
Yet, amidst this longing for strength, some walkers still yearned for freedom, while others craved the opportunity to display their achievements in the outside world, maybe even live a life of luxury. Once a Walker succeeded in the SS+ dungeon raid, they could return to Elilaum.
Izel exhaled again, a trace of depression evident in his expression as he inclined his head to the side. Why, despite the good news, did he not feel happiness? Why did there have to be a permanent way out?
Diana Ross: Everyone, be quiet. It’s my turn to spread some knowledge.
More information amassed from the broker started to spread in the forum.
Miraluka: Basically, it’s not possible to get one’s former power back! However, one can grow quickly by raiding through the dungeon.
Diana Ross: Ah, I asked how the rewards are calculated within each raid. And how we achieved different objectives from what the ‘fortress’ gave us.
Isla Necron: Oh, share it!
Diana Ross: So everyone gets their raids and objectives according to the difficulty they choose. And you get bonus rewards depending on the decision you make to pass the raid!
The Sexist: I see… Come to think of it, that’s simpler than I thought. No wonder we get bonuses when we either perfectly complete the raid or take a different approach than intended by the ‘fortress’.
Diana Ross: I guess…
The thousands of waves: you guess? Shouldn’t it be correct? Aren’t you the one who asks the broker?
Every Walker began sharing what they had discovered extensively. ‘Could they be privately charging Verdes among themselves for information?’ Izel questioned inwardly. He noticed an overflow of information, more than usual. If so, it’s no wonder that no single Walker attempted to openly sell anything in the forum. However, if not, it seemed they were all too occupied with methods for returnees and other future developments.
Diana Ross: Also, I just asked about the sub-raids development and got a response.
Merriweather: Really? That was fast. What did Beelzebub say?
Diana Ross: Starting after the A+ rank dungeon raids, there’ll be sub-raids like [bronze], [silver], [gold], and [diamond]. And selling [better weapons] with [higher demerits] will be a thing. As well as more items like the permanent and temporary returnees’ runic stone.
Louise Maya: Oh, so after a dungeon raid, we get to choose one sub-raid before getting to the next real dungeon raid. Higher demerit, sh*t! I hate that feature; almost all the stuff in the trading center has a demerit!
Diana Ross: Yeah! And they’ll even be selling skills with double demerits starting after the SS+ dungeon raid. Not only you, but I fucking hate that shit!
Charles Dickens: They’re going to sell skills with double demerit… I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by anything anymore.
Buckley Bills: Is that all the sub-raid developments? Well, I get that you can only ask one question!
Diana Ross: I had two questions, though.
A ton of “What?” and “Fr?!” exclamations permeated the forum, nearly shredding Izel’s brain. “Ha!” His mind whirred like a spiral ribbon. It took a few minutes to piece together his thoughts.
Anyway, many walkers are just lucky in this world, much like ‘Diana Ross’, who was blessed with two query points comparable to others. Some Walkers remarked on the unfairness, while others were glad she used her query points to help.
But Izel chuckled cheerfully at their conversation. ‘The world has always been unfair; just get used to it.’ He wasn’t depressed; truthfully, he was carefree about such topics. After that, the blind man skipped it all, deeming the rest of the conversation irrelevant and boring.
Diana Ross: Hehe… I’m just so lucky… (If one could see the latter’s face, one could see how evil her grin was.) Ahem, ahem, I think they’re also adding a new branch system to the fortress operating system called the ‘SABER’.
[The new branch system called ‘SABER’ was a very simple design that was architected with based-type development features’ imbued, which allowed walkers to three-based raids before a main dungeon raid.]
[The labyrinth-based raid.]
[The battlefield-based raid.]
[The expedition-based raid.]
[After the SS+ dungeon raid, walkers who chose to stay would get to choose one of these based-type raids from the ‘SABER’ system. Essentially, it all depends on how one wants to grow in the Fortress of Dungeons.]
Diana Ross: Once you choose one of these ‘based-type raids’, you’ll get to go on a pertinent raid.
[If a specific walker chooses a labyrinth-based raid, he or she gets to plunder and loot types of hidden labyrinths scattered about in the Fortress of Dungeons.]
[A battlefield-based raid would consist of a walker that involves each group of walkers, akin to protecting the batons or flags for an extended period.]
[Lastly, an expedition-based raid would be mostly exploration and adventure with a party through lost tombs and hidden historical sites.]
While listening to Diana Ross’s explanation, Izel attempted to imagine various scenarios from all three raid types. He pondered which one to choose when the time came.
The Vegeta that slays Goku: And even if one plans to leave after the SS+ dungeon raid, no one still knows how expensive the ‘item’ would cost.
Louise Maya: Hah, I guess it’s time to start saving Verdes.
Ionia Trey: Haha, you will die if you never spend on your gear per raid. Be careful. And take it easy.
The seadog that eats weed: Y’all might have to keep accepting the dungeon raids to save enough Verdes.
Diana Ross: Yeah. I guess… I wasn’t able to find anything else. Too bad!
James Eladrin: Of course! You have two questions… I expect you to have more than that.
Githzerai Humon: I don’t like the sound of having to go against the other walkers.
Little Lily: As a survival theme, they probably won’t let the losing side live, would they?
Westeros Caleb: Expect the Unexpected.
“It seems Beelzebub wasn’t willing to provide the Walkers with the complete picture of whatever they asked using their Query points,” Izel muttered to himself. In other words, the administrator’s way of informing his assistant was by giving the ‘dogs’ a few slices of jerky at a time.
“Damn, that’s some impressive information control,” he murmured, returning from his reverie. He took these observations into account, preparing to use the Query points when the time came. The blind man then casually skimmed through the Forum, searching for more scattered snippets of information.
The Hand of a Warrior: I think I understand the ‘SABER’ system now.
Barry Strick: Shhh! I think we’ve figured out as much as we can at this point.
Walter Morell: Right! I guess everything else is up to us now to survive.
André Miller: Damn, the other walkers from other difficulties have probably already finished their raids.
Kelvin Otto: Lmao, yeah, I guess we are the only ones that passed early.
However, all the chats became more fruitless. Izel yawned as his mind felt a bit sleepy, so he turned off the forum.
* * *
‘Why ain’t I happy about finding out the returnees’ methods?’ Izel subconsciously wondered. It was only natural for the blind man to return permanently, get accepted by a famous guild as a returnee from the fortress of Dungeons, and become something bigger and more famous—a high-rank hunter.
He folded his hands and nodded. If he utilized his experiences and skills, he could conquer various ‘subterranean labyrinths’ on Eliluam, created and filled with monsters, devour stronger monsters, and eventually become an S-rank hunter. Or perhaps discover and uncover the FFO secrets of the world, the causes of monsters’ outbreaks from their (Vulkan) ‘realm’, and the origins of the fortress of Dungeons.
So many insurmountable benefits could fall into his grasp if he permanently returned to Elilaum. Yet, those honors didn’t sit well with him, possibly because he had set up a goal for himself that made him aware of his greed as a human.
Honor, wealth, love, power, and fame – those were feelings that humans developed as time passed. With greed as its fuel, it becomes a limitless desire that knows no bounds. Of course, he had the right to think that way; after all, he was once a pitiful and freeloading blind forsaken human waiting for death’s call. But in just four days, he accepted the invitation to the fortress of Dungeons, risking his life since then and suffering other side effects…
‘I had become a D-rank Walker.’ Aye, it was an undeniable fact that made him consider that given more time, he could become much stronger. Exactly. Izel desired to get stronger so that even the sky wouldn’t be his limit. He wanted to accept more dungeon raids and devour more monsters. “Then, I could live a carefree, fulfilled, and luxurious life with a loving wife and kids.” With those concluded thoughts, an involuntary smile formed across his face.
‘Then why am I becoming insatiable, to the point of forsaking my ultimate goal?’ After pondering this, a resounding slap landed on both his cheeks, jolting him from the clutches of greed. The A+ raid and SS+ dungeon raids posed future problems; surviving the C-rank might be a challenge in itself. He needed to focus more on the raid happening in a few hours rather than those far ahead. ‘I’ll consider those raids when the time approaches.’ Moreover, survival and becoming stronger stood as the most crucial objectives. He exhaled sharply and summoned his status.
[Name: Izel Ethalt Blind.
Age: 19 years old.
Strength: 35 Stamina: 43
Agility: 47 Mana: 26
Gear: Flawlation (F)
*Soul Assimilation (E)
Sound Reading (Innate)
After sensing his new growth, which had significantly increased since the last dungeon raid and surpassed the measly stats from the tutorial where all his attributes were below 7, a faint yet satisfied smile crept across his lips, acknowledging the steady improvement. With his total stats now nearing 180, he felt notably powerful for his current level.
“My agility and stamina are too high,” murmured Izel, displeased with the imbalance in his stats. His preferred combat style leaned towards being an all-rounder. He believed in maintaining a nice balance among all his stats rather than focusing solely on pure agility, except in cases where it was necessary to push ahead.
Amidst his thoughts, doubts began to throb in his mind about whether his current stats would suffice for the next raids. His desire to improve further surged within him.
“Souls Assimilation details,” he uttered, seeking more information.
[*Active Skill: Soul Assimilation.
Effect (1): Transduction—Devour the soul of the slain targets into essences ‘transmuted souls’.
Demerit: The effective success rate will be lowered if the target has an overwhelming presence when alive or has a weighty soul.
Bonus Effect (2): Augmentation. The host can permanently increase stats by up to five randomly allocated points, depending on the devoured essence.
Demerit (2): Stats can’t increase more than five randomly allocated points, no matter how worthy the devoured essence or how high the skill proficiency is.
Bonus Effect (2): Capacitance. The host can store up to ten devoured transmuted souls ‘essences’ for future use.
Demerit (2): Essence Capacitance depends on the Host’s willpower. Stored essences will possess the host if their will is sufficiently weakened.]
After hearing the feminine voice’s narration, he nodded proudly at the 30 percent increase in skill proficiency.
‘I hope I get a new effect when it reaches 50 percent,’ he hoped, contemplating the different skill development tendencies compared to Elilaum hunters in the fortress. Skills evolved to a higher rank at 100 percent proficiency, but at 50 percent, there could be an improvement and additional effect.
‘However, it all depends on probability,’ Izel mused, acknowledging the uncertain outcome.
Deciding to move on, he checked his Gear effect details.
[Active Gear skill: Flawlation (F) effect: Within a radius of 360 degrees, the world would be composed of only black lines on a white background. Objects and soundwaves perceived consisted of only black lines illustrating their outline. While ‘mana’ would be sensed in color.
Demerit: The host remains blind.]
The skill proficiency was getting closer to 5 percent, a significant improvement from the previous one percent. He wondered what he might perceive through the blindfold once it reached its assumed threshold. Anyway, he summoned his [Sound Reading] details to check for any improvements.
[Passive Skill: Sound Reading (innate)
To analyze and detect sound waves and types of frequencies, determine the location of objects in the environment by using reflected sound waves while perceiving multiple different sensory and body languages at once at a rate of 30% accuracy.
Demerit: high-pitched, screeching sound as well as upper mid-frequency range can cause physical discomfort or pain response to the ears and might cause bleeding. High-pressure waves overly stimulate the overly sensitive nociception, causing a sensation of discomfort or pain, which could lead to headaches and mental strain.]
‘Ah! Same as always,’ he let out a sigh. It was the same as when he was in the tutorial. In truth, he wasn’t disappointed but rather felt weird. ‘An innate skill that had neither proficiency nor extra effect yet had a demerit.’ Izel could guess something was up but didn’t know what. Perhaps it was because it was a skill he was born with. After pondering for a minute, he just brushed it off and ended up with an overall conclusion: ‘It’s a skill that’s part of me.’
Setting that aside, his stats weren’t increasing as much as in the tutorial and F-rank raid, but he wasn’t too worried about it. As long as he found more monsters with a ‘less overwhelming existence than when alive’ to devour, he could slowly increase his stats by five random points.
[Soul Assimilation] makes the user stronger the more he or she slays and devours. So, he could increase [Soul Assimilation] skill proficiency in the upcoming C-rank dungeon raid if he prepared himself. Currently, with his stats, Izel could probably kill a wolf with his bare hands. Feeling energized, he got up from the white bed.
Soon after, he decided to test himself by doing some jumps. He propelled himself off the ground as hard as he could. His now-light body went far beyond his expectations now that he had reached a certain point in his constitution. Landing back on the floor, he counted off six rounds of jumps he unleashed, yet he wasn’t fazed in the slightest thanks to his increased stamina stat.
‘What a warm-up!’ He took deep breaths without any form of fatigue. The blind man started to feel more inhuman as his agility increased; he sprinted from the end of the waiting room to the opposite end in a matter of ten seconds.
‘It feels as if my body is like a living weapon.’ He flexed his body for more tests. After a while, he figured that he wouldn’t generally be used to such an increase in agility yet. No, rather, his control when on top speed is lacking. As the air jammed across his face, he happened to stumble on his footing before he could roundhouse to the other end of the room.
“Ugh, shit!” He slammed into the white wall with a huge impact, creating a hollow crater in his attempt to slow down his movement to quickly meander and evade the wall. It was an aftereffect of his lopsided stats, so therefore, proper training to control his agility would have to be deployed. Though, how did he fight in the D-rank dungeon raid despite his unnerving stats? Or did something happen that increased my stats unknowingly? He wondered hopelessly.
Even though he couldn’t still recall such moments, he concluded it to be so. Nonetheless, he is currently physically superior to the Wolf Guards, as long as he can get used to the difference.
‘Defeating them now would be easy peasy.’ He nodded proudly as he attempted to get up from the floor. At least that is what he had in mind. Anyway, he should never let his guard down at any moment; a single mishap could cost his life on a larger scale. Just like now, he had knees, ankle injuries, a broken nose, and a damaged spine, which is currently healing from the waiting room amid an absence of grey vapor. ‘Ah, I will wait till I get healed up!’
The C-rank dungeon raid starts in 17 hours and 21 minutes.