“What made you decide to naturalize?”
When Jair arrived in Australia, he answered questions from reporters. “I wanted to participate in the National Competition.”
Jair was ranked 1,071 on the overall rankings. He took pride in his skills and wanted to be a star like the high rankers. However, the United States was too big. The country was overloaded with strong and capable individuals, and Jair became weak in comparison. He didn’t even get elected as a representative. The ‘abundance’ of the United States had taken away Jair’s chance.
“Zibal? It has been a while.”
At the New York area selection round, hundreds of participants on stage were focused on Zibal. There were a variety of responses from the people. Those who recalled that Zibal had led the United States in the 1st and 2nd National Competitions welcomed him. Meanwhile, those who were disappointed that Zibal took the path of a hermit after facing several defeats frowned. Some people laughed or mocked him openly.
“Shouldn’t you retire after being called a punching bag? Why did you crawl back?”
“Don’t take away other people’s opportunities.”
There were even those who seemed hostile. Zibal humbly accepted all of it. He knew their hostility came from affection and expectations.
‘They are those who waited for me.’
Yes, the United States had been waiting. Zibal had been defeated by Russia’s Kraugel and South Korea’s Grid, but it hadn’t changed the fact that he was still one of the best talents in the United States. The American people had hoped he would play an active role again. They had wished the United States would once again be honored as the number one country in the 3rd National Competition. However, Zibal hadn’t responded to the people’s expectations. He had disappeared without a trace and turned away from the 3rd National Competition. Consequently, the United States lost its first place ranking.
The people felt as much betrayal as they had felt hope. As such, Zibal understood that they felt betrayed by him.
“In any case, we have Kraugel. We don’t need you!” A young ranker, who looked in his teens, cried out desperately. He was a boy who once dreamt of seeing America’s ‘captain’, Zibal. Yet the boy’s expectations had been betrayed, and he resented the monster from the east, Grid, for trampling on the United States.
“Hrmm.” Zibal had already made a speech in the waiting room. He wasn’t kind enough to repeat the words to the candidates who used the other waiting rooms. After all, he just had to show his strength.
The first selection event was PvE. Zibal summoned the ‘Two-Headed Steel Chariot’ and smiled at the boy after trampling on the small creatures.
“The protagonist becomes stronger after overcoming ordeals. Kid, haven’t you seen it many times in movies?”
“Ah... Ahh...” The forgotten light of envy filled the boy’s eyes as he looked up at the chariot. All those who laughed or mocked Zibal were silent. Then the second monster wave appeared. The high-speed flying monsters surrounded Zibal. Their sharp claws aimed at Zibal, who seemed to be in a crisis because the chariot only showed its power on the ground.
Zibal just laughed at the monsters and summoned his second ride, “White Accelerator.”
It was a white lion with large wings. Zibal abandoned the chariot and flew into the sky. He used a huge trident and was able to penetrate through all the monsters. It happened in an instant. Zibal shouted, “The United States will win. I will make it so. I am different from the other losers who abandoned their country! I have overcome my ordeal and returned! I am the true protagonist!”
Zibal’s cry was enough to stimulate the black flame dragon Lauel, who was watching in the distance. Certainly, Zibal was much stronger than he had been two years ago. He was unique even in the United States, which had humbled numerous strong people. Zibal was comparable to Kraugel of last year.
‘Maybe this year...’
‘The combined power of Kraugel and Zibal can beat Grid...!’
The American rankers, who still shrank back from the Grid they witnessed last year, started to feel hopeful.
“Victory will be made by me, not you. If you’re done then get out of the way.”
Step, step. A man pushed his way onto the stage. The young rankers didn’t recognize him, but those older than 20 were amazed and shocked.
“Haster!! It’s Haster?”
The emperor of FPS games—Haster was the mythical pro gamer who created the golden age for America. He was comparable to the Korean FaXer and Lim Xhan. The person who retired from the game world with the release of Satisfy was appearing here...? The emergence of the unexpected figure shocked people.
‘What is with all the fuss?’ The younger generation who didn’t know him felt doubts. Then Haster showed off the power of his unique class, Red Sage. The 1st and 2nd wave monsters were blocked by ice barriers and burned by flames. It wasn’t as exciting as Zibal’s display, but it was neat workmanship without any flaws.
Skull and Zephyr watched Zibal and Haster quietly.
‘However, that is all.’
Skull, 10th on the overall rankings, and Zephyr, 20th on the overall rankings—they had played for the United States in every national competition and knew the harsh reality.
‘They shouldn’t feel elated just by catching a few monsters.’
‘They can never beat that monster.’
The monster was Grid. They had met Grid or seen him for three consecutive years and knew how steep Grid’s growth curve was. It was a strength that extended beyond the concept of stats and skills. Rather, it felt like an evolution of a species itself.
‘Grid has already surpassed the limits of a player a long time ago.’
‘He is someone who has faced a dragon, not just these petty monsters. In order for us to win against South Korea, the United States needs a transcendent who is beyond the limits like Grid.’
Did they believe this transcendent person was Kraugel? Well, let’s see? Most people didn’t know it, but Skull and Zephyr clearly saw the difference between Grid and Kraugel. At last year’s PvP finals, Grid hadn’t used all his power, but he had broken Kraugel. The person who people had called the ‘sky above the sky’ for several years had been like a child in front of Grid.
‘We should give up on the 1st place spot.’
Nothing would change even if Zibal and Haster came back. The presence of Grid meant the United States would forever remain in second place. Skull and Zephyr smiled bitterly as the gloomy reality filled their minds.
[The second test will begin.]
A new system message popped up, and a boss monster appeared. It was an earl grade direct descendant vampire—a monster known to be monopolized by the Overgeared Kingdom.
“I want food.” The pale vampire revealed his sharp fangs as a bloody magic power swirled around him and took control of the stage. It was the manifestation of Blood Field, which weakened all players.
“Let’s move.” Skull and Zephyr rushed forward. In order to get a high score in a boss raid, they had to accumulate damage on the boss or pull the boss’ aggro to survive. Skull and Zephyr had no plans to be eliminated in the selection rounds. However, they couldn’t help freezing in place, while the other contestants stepped back or ran into them. The sky was suddenly filled with darkness and thunder. The thunder in the sky split apart.
The participants were confused by this turn of events and cried out.
A giant descended through a gap in the sky. It was close to five meters tall, and its white coating was reminiscent of a white dragon’s scales. Someone muttered, “Gundam...?”
The emergence of something beyond the vampire earl wasn’t in the participants’ event information. The confused people scattered everywhere, including Haster.
‘What is that monster?’
Mental Protection, the passive skill of the Red Sage, was being threatened by the descent of this giant enemy. Haster’s legs were shaking, and he couldn’t move. Haster bet that most participants were likely to be in a ‘fear’ or ‘confused’ state. What was the identity of the giant that threatened hundreds of rankers just by appearing? Except for one person, all of those present were overwhelmed.
“Come on, Raiders.”
The pressure was lifted the moment the giant appeared on the stage. Haster’s legs stopped trembling while the other participants regained their freedom from the abnormal conditions. Zibal was boarding the giant.
[Synchronizing with Raiders.]
[Raiders is operating!]
[The maximum mana is low!]
[The maximum time you can activate Raiders is 21 seconds.]
[Blue Sky Rider]
It was the growth type unique class that Zibal managed to obtain after meeting the 4th imperial prince Edan and carrying out the class quest.
“I am the protagonist.”
The presence of an artifact class item, Raiders, was enough to place Zibal as the protagonist as he claimed. The parthenon pillars fired and blew away one of the vampire earl’s arms.
‘Maybe...!’ Delight filled the faces of Skull and Zephyr.
‘Is this the Zibal that I knew?’ Haster’s eyes shook.
‘The Saharan Empire...?’ Lauel witnessed the symbol of the empire engraved on one side of Raiders’ chest.
Now, they had a common idea, regardless of individual circumstances. The winner of this year’s PvP event would be Zibal, and the United States would rise to the top again.
Simultaneously, in South Korea...
[Overgeared King Grid declares his non-participation in the 4th Satisfy National Competition.]
The breaking news from various media outlets caused a buzz among the people. The real-time search queries of the portal sites became filled with Grid, Shin Youngwoo, Overgeared King, and so on in less than one minute.
Ttang! Ttang! Ttang!
Grid ignored the flood of requests for interviews and hammered an armor that closely resembled Valhalla of Infinite Affection. He was mentally and physically tired from working for a long time, but Grid forgot his fatigue once he confirmed the results.
[You have created a myth rated item!]
[* When myth rated items are produced, all stats will permanently rise by +20 and reputation throughout the continent will rise by +1,000.]
[Your reputation points has exceeded 200,000. It is recommended that you use the Reputation Store.]
[The blacksmith god Hexetia has praised you.]
[God Hexetia has given you a benefit.]
[Your dexterity has risen by 100.]
“Placing armor on this noble body... I don’t like it but I will try it on now.” Noll couldn’t hide the joy of being with Grid for three days. His eyes lit up and he immediately wore the armor.
Grid nodded as he confirmed that Noll wearing the armor looked exactly like him. “It is like watching my childhood self.”
Noll was like the star in a night sky while Grid was a pig’s poop. The gap in appearance between the two people was this huge. Grid had no conscience when he said Noll reminded him of his childhood. However, Noll was pleased instead of offended.