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<Fortress of the Believers -1- >
It was the same as one month ago.
The blinding flash subsided after waiting, and Shi-Hyeok cautiously opened his eyes.
The sky, like a magic circle drawn on black paper, came into view first.
After that he saw the buildings. The rampart was standing straight, and here and there pointed towers were in rows. With swords and bucklers, the infantry wearing armor was standing atop the ramparts. A giant, stone statue also stood high.
He quickly studied his surroundings.
He thought it might be in the middle of a battle, but the situation was not so. At least from what he had scanned.
It was then.
A voice hard to express with words rang out from someplace deep within his consciousness.
[Go that way.]
There was no need to ask where it was. That ringing was filled with urgency; it was apparent where Shi-Hyeok needed to go.
Not just the direction, which route to go by and even how far he needed to go.
Should he say it was like something he had known since long before.
Shi-Hyeok felt surprise and terror at the same time. With the feeling that he must move hastily, he began to move on the path that arose in his mind. As he wasn’t very fit, even when he hadn’t run much, he began to pant.
What in the world could this be?
Even while holding onto many questions, he ran endlessly.
Once he passed through the castle gates there were very vast fields. The ripe wheat was laid out without an end to be seen. As he passed the wheat fields this time huge hills obstructed Shi-Hyeok’s path.
“You’re joking, telling me to climb that path?”
Shi-Hyeok looked at the hills and grumbled.
But the command given previously had a tone of absoluteness in it. It was possible to hesitate a little or go backwards slightly, but in the end, it was necessary that he follow the command.
Helpless, he started to ascend the mountain. Thankfully, there was a road paved with rocks, and it wasn’t difficult.
On top of the mountain there was a fortress. Thick ramparts enclosed it, and atop a high tower a magic defence armament was mounted.
Shi-Hyeok unreservedly went inside.
“Oh, a new doctor?”
A middle-aged man saw Shi-Hyeok and greeted him with a smile.
He was wearing a white, long gown. The gown had a hood attached to it and covered him from head to toe.
It was the same as the clothes Shi-Hyeok was wearing now.
It seemed like the man was also a doctor.
Shi-Hyeok bowed his head lightly.
“I am glad to meet you. I am called Choi Shi-Hyeok.”
“Glad to meet you as well. Call me Groyin. If we had met at some other place we could have had a better story of how we met, however that cannot be the case and it is a shame. Follow me, as the fighting will begin soon.”
The place Groyin led Shi-Hyeok was a single building located at the rear of the fortress.
Field hospital it was approximately like. Inside the two story building, white beds were arranged tightly. It was an infinitely better situation than when they had only laid the wounded on blankets.
After going inside, Groyin turned to look at Shi-Hyeok.
“The number of doctors in this fortress is five including you. Three people on the second floor, two people on the first floor is how it’s arranged. While our job is to treat the wounded, moving the ones that can’t be managed by us two to the second floor is one more duty.”
Workers were moving about in the infirmary and inside this building. Wearing rustic trousers with suspenders and blue shirts, they were unsophisticated-looking people.
Unable to belong to the army, these were people without whom it would be impossible to gather resources and construct buildings.
Shi-Hyeok questioned each one as he caught sight of them.
“Are there wounded that we can’t handle?”
It was a reasonable question.
Since, in his previous experience, if they were only breathing, whatever wound they had could be treated easily.
No. They weren’t all like that.
The patient whose body had caught on fire.
He had been unable to treat that patient. Rather, Shi-Hyeok’s treatment had become poison and, in the blink of an eye, the patient had lost his life.
Groyin looked at Shi-Hyeok with a queer expression.
“You, I guess you don’t yet seem to have much experience in Argus? What is your rank?”
“Rank? What is that? And what is Argus?”
Groyin clicked his tongue.
“It doesn’t seem like this is the first time you’ve been summoned? Well, I will explain since it seems we have some time to spare.”
This very strange and unidentified world Shi-Hyeok had been summoned to was Argus.
He was told it was originally a beautiful world where life had blossomed and civilization had been developed. But by some event, the entire planet was fragmented. At that moment the gods used their own existence to maintain the planet of Argus, and if they hadn’t done so, the planet certainly would have met its end. Even so, because they could not perfectly negate the apocalypse, the planet was, even now, marching towards its end.
And so the gods had managed an immense feat.
They had summoned all of the beings in this world.
Those who had been summoned competed against each other, and this rivalry became their livelihood. The more cutthroat that process became, it created powerful energy that could restore the planet of Argus.
Shi-Hyeok cocked his head.
“You’re saying that energy is created when those who are summoned fight each other? How strange. It would seem that summoning and whatever else would consume energy.”
“I do not know the exact circumstances. However, I am very certain there has been an effect. Argus has much improved from earlier days. Do you see that over there?”
Groyin pointed at the sky.
Beyond the sky which was engraved with a white grid pattern, something like small stars could be seen.
At a glance, the planet was similar to the Earth, but there was a significant difference.
It was in a fractured state.
One half maintained its original shape, but the other half was unrecognizably broken. Shattered into a thousand pieces, the shards drifted, suspended in the vacuum of space.
Groyin spoke as he gazed at those stars.
“Even at the time when the fighting began, it was said to have been grave. Since the planet of Argus was completely shattered. It has improved a bit now. Because the natives are living in sacred precincts that are owned by the lands or immortals protected by the gods.”
“But is there a reason for those who are summoned to fight like this? If they were just people like me, it seems they would merely hide somewhere.”
“There is. The victors in this competition may win the right to become the gods of the restored Argus. Even if they were to refuse that right, they would be able to have great power in their own world. If they became a hero, they would be able to have even a small amount of that great power in their home world, even if they had been a nobody previously. In Argus, it seems like a small thing, but it is different in their home worlds. One could think that their lives become battle-tested. In any case, there is no right to choose, anyways.”
Of course, there wasn’t an absence of risk altogether.
If a person dies while fighting on the battlefield, generally there are no consequences. This is because the gods’ power protects the summoned.
However, that was not always the case. Once in a while the influence would affect someone. Those influences were sometimes positive and sometimes negative, but it was only when there was a negative influence that it would be problematic.
They could develop a disease that caused them to be unable to see or hear, or they could outright become a monster.
Hearing all this, there was one fact that Shi-Hyeok became aware of.
It had to do with the ability users and the summoned on the Earth.
They had something to do with this place.
If someone became a hero in this place, they would awaken as an ability user on Earth. Due to certain conditions, if someone was affected by those influences on the Earth, they would develop strange powers and become an ability user.
Groyin spoke with a dejected face.
“Amongst all those that are here, there is no one who is summoned because they wish for it. There is no way to stop being summoned. It is, in truth, a screaming riot. There is compensation if one succeeds in becoming a hero, but it is not as if everything will go well.”
“That can’t be helped.”
“If we could maintain our memories of this place on our home worlds, we would look for some way, but the gods of Argus are crafty ones, because once we are away from Argus we lose our memories from here. That is true whether you have become a hero or reborn as an immortal.”
Shi-Hyeok got a strange feeling from what Groyin had said.
Losing their memories?
It had not been like that for Shi-Hyeok. Although the terror he had felt when he died had disappeared, his memories remained clearly.
Just as he was about to ask about it, Groyin changed the topic.
They were pressed for time, and there was much to inform him on.
Shi-Hyeok heard all kinds of information from Groyin.
He learned a quite useful skill of checking his own status. Sitting still and concentrating internally, several pieces of information came floating up and bobbing like lanterns in his mind.
[New Arrival] [Doctor] [Level 1] [No Special Abilities] [Specialization Undecided] [Life Property] [Authority of Believers Bloc] [No Further Details]
Although it was a mess because there was no particular order, since the quantity of information wasn’t much he was quickly able to understand it.
After hearing Shi-Hyeok’s information, he licked his lips.
“You’re still a new arrival? Well, well. It’s a shame; I was hoping for at least an apprentice. It can’t be helped. Nothing but a headache for me. You must also bear it and treat the wounded, even if you are burdened. Even to just raise your level, it will be worth it.”
Before becoming a hero, the summoned are divided into 6 ranks.
New arrivals, apprentices, skilled, expert, master, and great master.
The higher your rank, the more powerful you start when summoned to the battlefield. The increase in power is also greater when climbing levels.
Although everyone started at level 1 when first summoned to the battlefield, even those in level 1 were not equal.
While he was at it, he asked about something else he was curious about.
“A while ago, when I was summoned, I could hear a voice ringing inside me. What was that?”
“You really know nothing? It was the immortals. The summoned who have left the victory of the competition for divine favor in front of them. They are having yet another battle amongst themselves. Using us as pawns on a chessboard, all while sowing advantage for the enemy.”
Competition for divine favor.
Meaning that the name of this enormous competition was a mere formality. The gods would be born as many times as needed, and it would end when the planet of Argus was restored, was it?
Shi-Hyeok nodded his head.
There were still things he was curious about, but he couldn’t ask any more questions. It was because a long note on a trumpet was heard coming from outside.
“It seems the battle is starting? You ought to get ready, too. The wounded will come in soon.”
Shi-Hyeok looked outside through a window on the first floor.
The infirmary was located in a corner, and the view wasn’t good. At best, a portion of the ramparts and the sky, the walls of the headquarters were all that could be seen.
As there was nothing much, he was about to turn away, but Shi-Hyeok eyes saw a strange sight.
The sky turned red.
As it became dark crimson, flames began to grow.
It was a situation he had witnessed before.
“Groyin-nim! The fire!”
The fire had benefitted the opposing immortal by laying waste to the fortress he had been summoned to last time.
Groyin replied slowly.
“I know. When that side’s immortal starts the battle with hell’s flames, they always cover the battlefield with a rain of fire. Don’t go outside of the infirmary. If you stay inside, you won’t get hit.”
But wasn’t it that the rain of fire he had seen last time burned down everything, inside or outside?
Nonetheless, he obediently followed Groyin’s advice. He probably knew more than Shi-Hyeok himself.
It was as he expected.
Shi-Hyeok was not aware, but white light burst in the skies of the fortress.
The light expanded and curved, completely surrounding the fortress. It was a kind of protection barrier, but, even so, the rain of fire struck at it.
Shi-Hyeok saw that spectacle from inside the barrier.
The barrier and the rain of fire were in a fierce battle of force. If the rain of fire seemed to have pierced the barrier, energy from nearby would repair that place immediately.
The fight did not last long.
The immortal’s rain of fire stopped. At the same moment, the followers under the control of the same immortal who had summoned Shi-Hyeok cut off the protection barrier.
The battle began.
Along with passing cusses, gruesome cries began to ring out. Whether it was because something was exploding, he also heard booming blasts. A bloody stench and the smell of something burning wafted all the way to this corner.
At the same time, workers were running to the infirmary with the wounded.
Most were infantrymen and archers. They were types even Shi-Hyeok was familiar with, and he took out the needles and began treating.
There were many burn patients. There were even archers whose arms and legs had fallen off. As soon as he placed the needles in those bodies, they were restored so quickly as to make someone doubt that they had once had those wounds.
There was still no one who had been moved up to the second floor. Shi-Hyeok and Groyin were able to handle it in the fortress. With the large number of the wounded, there was a lot of energy consumed, but they could follow sufficiently.
Some time had passed when the battle intensified.
As if there had been an explosion in front of the fortress, the wounded were starting to be carted in by scores.
However, the situation was strange.
The patients he saw now definitely different. They were not just burnt a bit or trauma patients but their entire bodies had caught on fire.
A cruel firework that spread, burning, from the starting point of a single arm or leg.
The patients let out screams as they writhed.
“Eu-ahhhk! I don’t want to die!”
Shi-Hyeok’s eyes grew wide.
Weren’t these the symptoms from the last time he was summoned?
Groyin glanced at the patient.
With a hesitant expression, he decided.
“It is the cremation curse. To the second floor! From now on, make sure to send all of those patients to the second floor.”
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