Last Friday night, I sent Boss a message.
I said that I wanted to negotiate.
Boss was silent for a week until she messaged me today.
The content of the message was a coordinate pointing to an intermediate-rank danger zone on the outskirts of Gyeonggido.
She was clearly telling me to come.
When I arrived, I saw an abandoned house standing alone in the middle of a dense forest.
It was a stone house that often appeared in scary movies, with stone bricks with fading color covered in moss and vines, and darkness shining through the broken window.
I went inside.
The sound of footsteps echoed out from darkness. I got goosebumps on my skin every time a chilly wind blew.
The moment I voiced out, something large dropped down from the ceiling. Evandel’s Ghost Wolf shot out of my chest in response, and I opened my eyes to grasp the situation.
A giant bat was being crushed by Fenrir. Er, wait, I was Fenrir.
The giant bat struggled as hard as it could under the Ghost Wolf, but its neck was quickly bitten and twisted like a stringless puppet.
The Flying Nightmare should be an intermediate rank grade 6 monster, but it was helpless against the Ghost Wolf.
“I guess I’ll leave close ranged combat to him.”
I could just shoot from long range and the wolf could take care of anything that neared me. It was the perfect combination.
Soon, the door behind me opened and small footsteps rang out.
I turned around.
As expected, it was Boss.
She looked back and forth between the dead bat and the wolf, and asked.
“Is it your pet?”
“Yes? Ah, yes, something like that.”
“It’s cute. First, take a seat.”
Boss pointed at a table, which was the only furniture in the house.
I sat down in front of it, with the wolf lying next to me.
I asked Boss.
“Did you leave the bat here on purpose?”
“No, many monsters live around here. It must have come in on its own. Anyways, I heard you wanted to negotiate?”
“Let’s hear it. What condition didn’t you like?”
Boss took out the contract once again.
An official mercenary contract. It was a good offer with a salary, which mercenaries rarely received.
However, what I wanted couldn’t be written down on a contract, nor was it allowed to.
“I liked the conditions.”
“There’s one request I’d like to make.”
Boss tilted her head with a puzzled look.
With a thing smile, I told her what must be done.
“I need you to help me kill someone.”
Silence descended. I couldn’t even hear Boss’ breathing.
I did my research and the result was conclusive.
It was impossible for me to kill Chae Jinyoon alone.
Daehyun Hospital’s VIP ward couldn’t be underestimated. Each room was a fortress that could withstand a full-powered attack from high-intermediate rank Heroes, and Chae Jinyoon’s room even had 3 powerful mercenaries protecting it in shifts.
The situation was still better than when he was first hospitalized, when even a high-intermediate rank Hero was guarding him. Regardless, I had no way of penetrating their defense.
And even if I somehow managed to do so… my identity would certainly be discovered.
The Chae clan could easily make use of Yoo Jinhyuk. There was simply no way I could avoid his Gift.
As selfish as it may be, I still wanted to stay together with the few comrades I’ve come to rely on.
“You want to… kill someone?”
With a stiff expression, I gave Boss an envelope.
Boss stared at the envelope for a moment, then grabbed it with a light sigh. Her small hand entered my sight.
She opened the envelope.
Pictures of Chae Jinyoon and information about him fell down.
Immediately, Boss’ expressionless face changed. With widened eyes, Boss looked at me and asked.
“…Is there a specific reason?”
“What is it?”
“Mm… for the sake of world peace.”
Although what I said was the truth, Boss made a sullen face.
I couldn’t do anything about it, since it wasn’t that I had personal grudge against him.
Boss was silent for a while.
It was undoubtedly because Chae Jinyoon was a difficult target, even for her. Chae Jinyoon’s clan, to be exact.
“I’ll be the one to kill him. You just have to create the opportunity….”
I didn’t plan on asking her to kill him. She probably wouldn’t agree in the first place.
Seeing her completely silent, I added a secret word.
For this day, I purposely avoided calling her Boss.
Immediately, Boss’ eyebrows twitched.
She was trying to keep her imposing manner, but I could see the corner of her lips curling up faintly.
On the other hand, the ‘Past Family’, excluding Kim Hajin, was meeting in a coffee shop. Although the purpose was to study for the final exams that would start in a week, Yoo Yeonha was the only one actually studying. Even Kim Suho was busy texting on his smartwatch.
Chae Nayun stared at Kim Suho suspiciously.
“Kim Suho, you’re texting Seung-Ah Unni, aren’t you?”
“I knew it. So that’s why she kept asking me about you.”
Kim Suho flinched.
“Uh… we’re just talking normally.”
Yoo Yeonha cut in.
“Isn’t that stranger? A cadet having personal conversations with a guild’s vice-leader? And she’s currently the most popular Hero too…”
“Eh? Ah, no, it’s not like that….”
Taken aback, Kim Suho began to ramble. Luckily for him, the subject of the conversation quickly changed. Yi Yeonghan mischievously teased Chae Nayun, who was sitting in a daze.
“Why are you so quiet? Are you thinking about Kim Hajin?”
“Why would Chae Nayun be thinking about that idiot?”
But it was Shin Jonghak who reacted first, and Yoo Yeonha also frowned at his language.
“…Jonghak, don’t call him an idiot. He’s rank 1 in theory.”
“Right, Jonghak, didn’t you ask him for help yesterday?”
“What? Don’t make things up, Kim Suho. Have you finally gone mad?”
“I saw you ordering Kim Horak to ask for you.”
Kim Suho remembered seeing Shin Jonghak awkwardly handing Kim Horak his notebook and Kim Horak going to Kim Hajin with it.
“…That was just him asking what he didn’t understand.”
“What nonsense is that…”
“Stop being so loud. I’m tired and annoyed by my recent hellish training.”
Chae Nayun quickly suppressed Shin Jonghak’s delirium.
On the other hand, Yoo Yeonha smiled bitterly and closed her textbook. No one seemed to be interested in studying.
“So, all three of you are going to Yoo Sihyuk Camp? Then you’ll be a league above the other cadets once you come out.”
“Yeah, we’ll come back early March.”
“Hm… then when should we go on our trip?”
The best part of being students was being able to go on trips with friends. Hearing Yoo Yeonha’s words, Chae Nayun replied in a better mood.
“December 17th, a week after finals.”
“Oh, that day doesn’t work for me. I have a promise with Hajin.”
Chae Nayun’s eyes widened at Kim Suho’s unexpected words.
“Uh, we’re going…”
Kim Suho paused.
Last week, Kim Hajin said that he found a Dungeon and invited him to come.
Kim Suho felt that it was something he shouldn’t reveal to others.
“…we’re going on a drive together.”
“Uh, yeah. I’ve been wanting to try riding his bike.”
“Pft, what a fitting duo.”
Shin Jonghak sneered, while Chae Nayun suddenly began to bang her head against the backseat of the couch in a fit of rage.
“Ha, haha, I can’t believe this. Ha, haha.”
After repeating this woodpecker-like motion for a bit, Chae Nayun suddenly shot up.
“Hey, I’m going first.”
Kim Suho asked.
“Where are you going?”
“Training. I’m going training. Don’t follow me, Shin Jonghak.”
Shin Jonghak, who was stealthily trying to get up, sat back down.
Chae Nayun then stomped out angrily for no determinable reason.
After talking with Boss, I met with Rachel as soon as I returned to Cube. This was our standard one-on-one training time.
“By the way, why did you ask me to help you with Barrier? I’m only rank 334.”
Before the start of training, I suddenly got curious and asked.
Rachel looked at me for a minute, then spoke with a sheepish smile.
“I’m not that stupid. I already know that Hajin-ssi is staying at that rank on purpose.”
“…Yes? Ah, well….”
I shrugged at Rachel’s surprisingly high evaluation of me. Thinking about it carefully, she wasn’t wrong. If I utilized Stigma’s magic power well, I felt like I could easily climb to rank 30.
Any higher made me doubtful because of my stats.
0.7 from Aether, 0.3 from Under Armor, and 0.1 from Ghost Wolf. Even with a total of 1.1 points from items, my stats still weren’t great.
“Let’s start. Try activating Barrier.”
Rachel nodded with a look of determination. She stood up straight and invoked Barrier.
Although it looked a bit jagged, it was still covering her upper body, and its defensive capability looked high even at a glance.
“Now, I’ll try attacking.”
I held up my cadet handgun and aimed at her Barrier.
Although I could easily kill a low-intermediate rank monster with a cadet handgun, I shouldn’t be able to penetrate Rachel’s Barrier.
“Before that, cover yourself with qi reinforcement. Just in case you get hurt.”
Along with an enthusiastic reply, Rachel covered herself with qi reinforcement.
She really was passionate about learning.
“Now, try to stop my bullets using that Barrier.”
This time, she seemed a bit confused.
She probably thought the Barrier would defend on its own.
“Using this Barrier?”
“Yep, you’ll know what I mean once you try. It’ll be quite difficult.”
Rachel quietly curled her body behind her Barrier.
I grinned and aimed my gun at her.
I fired immediately. The bullet I shot curved in an odd way, digging underneath Rachel’s Barrier, then suddenly shooting up and hitting her arm.
Rachel trembled at the sudden impact. Then, she rubbed her arm with her hand.
Since she had her qi reinforcement up, it should have only felt like a sting.
I provoked her slightly.
“If you want to block my bullet with that Barrier, you’ll need to practice for at least three years.”
Rachel opened her eyes flaringly like her pride was hurt.
“I, I want to try again.”
The decision Rachel made to deal with my bullet was enlarging the size of her Barrier.
With a small smile, I aimed where her Barrier couldn’t cover, her toe.
Her qi reinforcement must have been weaker around her feet as she fell to the ground holding her foot. Then, with teary eyes, she glared at me with a wronged face.
“T-That was mean!”
“What do you mean? That was Rachel-ssi’s fault. Why try to block a bullet with just a Barrier?”
“Try asking the grass, or the wind.”
I remembered a scene I described.
A breathtaking scene from the future, where Rachel would ask her elementals to cast hundreds of Barriers. Using this fairytale-like power, she would save thousands of people and overcome her trauma at the same time.
Of course, that was in the future. The present time’s 17-year-old Rachel was only glaring at the grass, unable to understand what I meant.
Suddenly, my smartwatch rang.
This buzz was an alarm function I added to notify me whenever a change happened to me.
[24 hours passed since consuming a ginseng pill. All stats increase by 0.0012 point.]
[Medicinal effect, ‘Physical Body Reinforcement’, has been 100% memorized.]
4. Physical Body Reinforcement
▷Increases all stats by 0.001~0.02 point. (The increase is only dependent on luck. Your physical stats will not affect it in any way.)
▷Reproduction cooldown time: 24 hours.
After eating Yoo Yeonha’s ginseng pill every day, I finally obtained its medicinal effect.
Although the ginseng pill’s effect permanently increased its user’s stats by 0.001~0.02 point, the upper limit was only achievable by children or the elderly. I’ve only been able to get 0.0015 point at max with each max.
But now that I had this Physical Body Reinforcement effect, my stat increase would take a new turn. Assuming I only gained 0.0018 point per day, a year would give me 0.657 point, and ten years would give me 6.57 points…
After nodding in satisfaction, I held up my gun once more.
“Alright, let’s go aga…”
It was then.
I could hear the rustling of leaves behind me.
Who was it?
I quickly turned around, but the person who was watching us seemed to have run away.
However, my Thousand-Mile Eyes could easily see through the forest and find the person running away.
A familiar silhouette with brown hair.
It was Chae Nayun.
Time flew by like a river, and the hellish finals began for Cube’s cadets.
But just like always, I breezed through the written exams.
What most cadets were concerned about were the combat exams.
“Listen up. For the final exam, everyone will start from an equal position.”
Today was December 8th.
All first-year cadets were gathered in Gyeonggido for the final exam.
“The final exam will be Tower Climbing!”
Today’s exam was Tower Climbing, but I didn’t know much about it, since I skipped writing about most of Cube’s exams after the first semester.
I suddenly regretted it.
“This is a common training program used by guilds before attempting to conquer Towers. Up to 1500 people can enter at a atime.”
The building in front of us was too square to be called a Tower.
I looked up at this building in a daze.
Although it only looked like a 10-story building, it should be much bigger on the inside.
“This Tower’s entrance is a magic engineered device that’s similar to a Portal. Once you go inside, you’ll be sent to a random predetermined location, so don’t be alarmed!”
After the instructor’s explanation, cadets began to enter the Tower one by one.
When it was my turn, I went in with my eyes closed.
Sensations similar to a Portal enveloped me, and in the next moment, I could clearly feel that I was transported to another space.
Even when I opened my eyes, all I saw was darkness.
I looked around using my Thousand-Mile Eyes.
Although there was darkness all around me, my extraordinary eyes could see everything as though it was day.
I was in a small white room with only a small pathway to my right.
Finding my way out of this room seemed to be my first goal.
I focused my vision and tried to see through the walls.
But as expected of a Tower, something seemed to be hindering my Gift as I couldn’t see that far away.
“Argh, my eyes hurt.”
I felt like I could peer through the walls if I added Stigma’s magic power, but I decided to save it since I didn’t know what would happen later on.
Soon, the lights came on, signaling that the exam had begun. At the same time, glowing sentences appeared on the white walls.
[Cooperate with White to climb.]
[Be wary of traps.]
“…I’ll be damned if Lancaster or other Djinns don’t come out.”
I was all too familiar with how things were panning out.
Although Djinns wouldn’t dare to act too openly with so many watchful eyes on Cube, about 30% of Cube was already taken over by Djinns.
First, I took a careful look around. But just as I concluded before, there wasn’t anything special about the room.
“So I’ll have to cross that bridge…”
There was a pathway on the right leading to a bridge. It looked too much like a trap, with the left and right sides of the bridge being completely empty.
But I had no choice.
I walked down the sole pathway and arrived at the bridge.
While I was going over the bridge, one careful step at a time…
An arrow came flying in with a fierce shockwave.
No, there wasn’t just one arrow.
One from the front, and one from the left and right.
However, all three arrows lost their speed three steps in front of my head.
Compared to Rachel’s rapier, these arrows were like turtles.
Under Bullet Time, which I was now all too familiar with, I grabbed the two arrows flying in from the sides, then dodged the one from the front by lightly tilting my head.
Then, I chucked the arrows forward, destroying the crossbow that fired the arrow.
After clearing the first trap with ease, I laughed imposingly.
The sound of a door opening rang out.
And the bridge I was standing on dropped down.Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Sorry for the late release. Was a bit busy with IRL stuff.