Today was different from the day of the banquet. If Roman was like a colorful peacock as a nobleman on that day, today, he looked like he was ready to go to battle right now.
Roman’s aura was beyond intense. The people in the crowd unwittingly gave way, and everyone on both sides bowed their heads, not daring to look into Roman’s eyes.
People’s gaze; people’s reactions—Roman took them for granted. Even before he was recognized as the new Heavenly Demon in the Hundred-Thousand Mountains, and even before he slaughtered the righteous sects that came in like waves and conquered Murim, Roman—No, Baek Joong-hyuk lived as a ruler, so he knew what kind of attitude he needed to show right now.
He walked forward. People looked into each other’s eyes—It was incomprehensible. Guided by the rumors of Roman Dmitry, they had applied for the military recruitment, but some people thought he wasn’t really worthy of ruling over the enlisted soldiers. However, after seeing Roman in person, they had no choice but to re-evaluate him.
It was a natural atmosphere. Honestly, Roman had expected others to show an attitude like this. However, he was so different from how the general public viewed him that the men who were chattering earlier could not say anything now.
Silence lingered for some time. And finally, Roman stood before the people who had come for the military enlistment. Seeing over five hundred people bow their heads towards him, Roman said calmly, “Raise your head.”—Although he had said it calmly, it was actually an order. People eventually raised their heads. Roman hadn’t done anything special yet, but everyone was already caught up in his momentum.
“As stated in the announcement, today, you have the opportunity to become one of the 30 soldiers who will fight for me. Of course, I will be in charge of the selection process. However, I have something to tell you before we begin the test. I, Roman Dmitry, have no intention of staying cooped up in this remote territory on the outskirts. I will always fight to achieve a higher position than I have at that moment, and while you fight alongside me, risking your life is an unavoidable fate. So, those who aren’t willing to follow me with a firm resolve, turn back now. The moment you lose your head on the battlefield, do not resent me for driving you to fight on the battlefield. The only thing you should regret at that moment is that you couldn’t witness me standing as the most powerful on this continent while staying by my side.”
Of course, people were astonished. Roman’s speech could only be called arrogant. Roman Dmitry, whose position of successor to the Dmitry family, far from being the most powerful on the continent, was at stake, said he would become the most powerful on the continent in front of so many people. Nevertheless, the problem was that nobody could laugh at it. The charisma that Roman exuded and the firm attitude he showed created the illusion that such a thing could actually happen.
I get it.
Roman’s words are nonsense.
However, the rumors and ideals which guided people to come here did not allow them to turn back after seeing Roman with their own eyes.
Roman added, “If you pass the test and become mine, you will be able to live your life as a predator who can make their own choices and decide their own life. I, Roman Dmitry, promise you that.”
That was the end of it. Then, Roman Dmitry stepped back. And finally, the moment when the curtain of the exam would rise came.
There was no applause when Roman finished his speech. The tension everyone felt was suffocating. Seeing the people who still couldn’t take their eyes off Roman, Chris stepped forward and announced, “From now on, I will tell you how to proceed with the first test.”
Five hundred volunteers—Lucas thought the level of those who applied for enlistment was higher than he initially expected, but by Roman’s standards, there wasn’t much difference—Most of these people probably wouldn’t even be able to counter one of Chris’ attacks.
However, for now, it was best to measure the volunteers through another method, and starting from the bottom was not an unfamiliar situation for Roman—Of the 12 people that came out of the cave, Baek Joong-hyuk was the first to form a group. Even back then, there was chaos as many wanted to stay by his side, but Baek Joong-hyuk confirmed whether they were worthy by looking for one thing, and one thing only—‘What I want is strong mental strength. Those born with the heart of a beast will quickly become strong even if they start from rock bottom. Moreover, only such people can afford to walk alongside me.’
The heart of the beast was an innate talent—Kevin, who raised his sword without hesitation at the command to cut off his arm, or Chris, who asked the victor how to become strong even after suffering a disastrous defeat.—They were two cases which represented those who were born with the heart of the beast. No matter how strong they are, those who do not have the heart of a beast cannot guarantee victory in battles against those born with it.
30 people who would be selected—Roman did not set any particular conditions for them. Why? Even if they did not know how to wield a sword, Roman wished to obtain such talents who would still use a sword or their bare hands to emerge victorious.
Chris continued, “The test is simple. When the applicant stands in the designated position, the archer we prepared will fire three arrows at the applicant. The arrow can either pierce the applicant’s body and inflict fatal wounds, or it can barely miss and pierce the plate behind their back. What is certain is that only those who do not move a single inch while all three arrows are fired will pass the first test.”—The first exam was a test to confirm the applicant’s courage.
The test began. As the first applicant stepped forward, Morrison, who was supposed to go second, could not hide his nervousness. ‘This is supposed to be a test. Everyone has gone crazy!’ Morrison was an ordinary commoner. Having made a living as a miner in an iron mine, he thought a job that covered him with dust daily was not suitable for him.
Naturally, he had always wanted to be a cool knight like Chris. Even though he did not know how much blood and sweat a knight had to shed to get to the level of Chris, he fell in love with his manly delusions while looking at the glistening armor reflecting the sunlight.
To someone like him, the recruitment was a golden opportunity of a lifetime. Thinking that he could learn martial arts while having an attractive salary of eight silvers per month, he quit his job and took the exam.
And, obviously, Morrison had no intention of risking his life for the test. ‘Fuck, fuck, fuck.’ His body was trembling as if someone had brought a dagger to his neck. It was terrifying. Seeing the archer pulling the arrow backward, he only wanted to deny the reality that would soon befall him.
‘How the hell is someone supposed to trust that archer? Even if one is a sharpshooter, they cannot always be perfect, and the cost of their mistakes can cost another person’s life. I don’t want to die. The reason I took the test was to get a chance to become a knight while training as a soldier, but I have no intention of dying in vain, damn it!’
“Haah, Haah.” He exhaled harshly.
The first applicant stood in the designated position. Seeing the first applicant’s nervous expression, Morrison glanced over to look at Roman’s expression—Blank. It was completely blank, as if nothing interesting was happening. Seeing that Roman was not worried about accidents at all, Morrison calmed down. ‘Right. This is a simple test. No matter how much Roman Dmitry wants a brave soldier, he doesn’t want people to actually die during a test. I guess the archer conducting the test is extremely talented and will never make a mistake. That’s right—Nobody with common sense would follow a killer who puts people to death in a test for enlisting men.’
He unclenched his hand and saw it—There was a lot of sweat. When he first heard how the test was conducted, he thought it was extreme, but after thinking about it, he realized that Chris was deliberately trying to scare people. And fear comes from imagination. Even if the archer shows off his skills during the test, the applicants with a weak mentality have no choice but to be engulfed in fear from the moment Chris warned that they might lose their life.
It’s a mental battle.—He felt certain that if he held on to the fact that nothing would happen, the arrow would definitely miss. ‘Well, even Roman isn’t crazy enough to proceed with the trial while ignoring the risks.’ He was relieved. And, at the exact moment when he took a deep breath,
The first applicant fell to the floor while screaming. The first arrow had been nailed to the plate at the back. However, the second arrow went off the path and gracefully pierced the first volunteer’s thigh.
“Ahhhhhh!” The applicant collapsed down on the spot.
The strong-looking man fell to the floor and screamed, and blood gushed like a fountain from the part the arrow had pierced. Drops of red blood were dripping all over the place.—Chris and the other applicants rushed to treat the applicant, but when they saw the blood that was gushing like a fountain, Morrison and the other applicants’ faces turned pale. They saw it—An arrow had clearly pierced his thigh. Obviously, the archer was no sharpshooter. And if the arrow had pierced the head rather than the thigh, the applicant would have died instantly.
“…This is crazy.”
“Did he really mean for us to be prepared for being shot?”
“This is nonsense.”
Of course, people were agitated. As they looked at the applicant, and then at each other, Chris, who was treating the applicant, laughed inside. ‘As expected.’ It was all planned by Roman from the beginning—including the first applicant. The archer was a well-known marksman in the vicinity, and the first applicant knew that his thigh would be pierced. Still, he was determined to take the exam. Roman promised him in advance that the archer would shoot an arrow at an area that would not fatally injure him, and he paid a huge compensation in return. It was a good deal for both of them. Roman also demanded that he fall to the floor and scream and squawk in the deal.
Chris checked the injured person’s condition and confirmed that it was not a serious injury, just as they had planned. However, he deliberately showed a serious expression.—As if it was a fatal wound, Chris treated him urgently and carefully.
‘It’s just as the young master said. We can’t find the type of people we want by merely making verbal threats. That’s why we need to show them they actually need to risk their lives. It’s only one accident. However, even if it would only happen once every hundred arrows, the weak applicants will be intimidated by that 1% chance.’ And the horror doesn’t end just there. Once every hundred arrows there will be someone we planted to be a victim, meaning four more victims in the future; that will keep the tension of most applicants high until the very end.
They moved the wounded. Seeing the blood dripping on the floor as the wounded was carried on a stretcher, Morrison’s face, which had recently been resolute, grew pale and weary.
He thought to himself. Since this kind of accident happened with the first applicant, they might add a safety device or change how the test will be conducted.
However, the reality was harsh.
“Next.”—Those were Chris’ words.
Seeing Chris saying ‘next’ while wiping the blood off his hands, Morrison shut his eyes tightly. He gave up—He waved a white flag. Seeing that, Chris clicked his tongue. It was clear that those who were not born with the heart of a beast would not even be able to pass the first test easily.
“The second person will be treated as an applicant who gave up. Those who are afraid of arrows piercing their bodies, give up now. And remember—even if an arrow gets stuck in one’s body, if they clench their teeth and endure it, they will be able to earn the qualifications of a successful applicant. So, you cowards who are afraid of losing your lives, get the fuck out of this exam right now!”
Now, the first test had truly begun.
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