Chameleon Troupe had ties with several organizations and groups, since even they couldn’t manage everything in this huge land.
Of course, most of these ties were only temporary, with Chameleon Troupe being in a clear-cut superior position. In fact, most of the groups they traded with didn’t even know that they were dealing with the organization Chameleon Troupe.
Dark Moon Society was one of many private organizations based in Pandemonium. If I remembered correctly, their leader was from England, and their group was a crime syndicate similar to the Mafia.
“To think that even a brat like you has heard of us. We must have gotten quite famous, eh?”
Although the United Nations and several governments spread malicious propaganda against Pandemonium, Pandemonium wasn’t the hell they made it out to be. In truth, Pandemonium was a city with a sizable number of residents that included humans.
In any case, Chameleon Troupe didn’t care too much about Pandemonium, but Dark Moon Society desperately clung to them in the hopes of elevating their status.
After all, having Chameleon Troupe as their backer would give them quite an edge in the power struggles against other organizations.
As for why a member of Dark Moon Society was trying to kill me, it was likely because they were hired by Lancaster. This was especially likely, considering Lancaster and Dark Moon Society’s leader were both from England.
Getting back to the matter at hand, the fact that Dark Moon Society was Chameleon Troupe’s lackey changed nothing. It wasn’t like I could go up to him and introduce myself as a friend of Chameleon Troupe’s boss. If I did, Boss would probably kill me.
“Then let us start.”
Heuk Jeon chillingly spoke as his daggers gathered together.
I counted the number of daggers he had.
One, two, three… seventeen.
From the looks of it, he was controlling them with his magic power. If he could control all seventeen daggers skillfully, he was at least at the intermediate-rank level.
“Come, I’ll allow you to make the first move.”
Despite talking like he was looking down on me, he didn’t let his guard down in the slightest. His magic power infused daggers were thoroughly protecting his body like a curtain of blades. I couldn’t see a single opening to make use of.
First, I used the third medicinal effect memorized by my body.
In an instant, a surge of heat coursed through my body and my muscles bulged up. My body fiercely reacted at the spontaneous rush of adrenaline coursing through it.
Along with the strengthening of my physical body, my thought processes also sped up.
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.
“Despair is a part of death. I’ll let you experience it thoroughly.”
I shot open my eyes and aimed my gun at the blabbering fool.
An explosive sound erupted as my 45-round magazine emptied in a second.
But even against such a terrifying firing speed, Heuk Jeon didn’t bat an eye. The seventeen daggers hovering around him like satellites cut down all the bullets.
Severed bullets fell on the ground.
Once the initial explosive sound died down, only silence remained.
“Hm… that’s it?”
Heuk Jeon smiled leisurely.
Tsk. I clicked my tongue and pulled my hair up.
Unfortunately, I was a bad match against him.
Although I could fire bullets powerful enough to break his daggers, the problem was that he had seventeen of them.
However, I couldn’t die to him.
If I really wanted to win, I could do so whenever I wanted.
The god-slaying bullet, Misteltein.
Although it would be like using a guillotine to behead a chicken, it would certainly guarantee my survival.
“How disappointing. If that’s all you have to show, I’ll be attacking now.”
Heuk Jeon was kind enough to announce his next move. I focused my attention on his daggers. A sly smile emerged on his face, and his daggers flew toward me.
I immediately activated Bullet Time.
In this slowed world, I stared at the flying daggers… and felt that something was off.
A single dagger suddenly accelerated toward my head.
But I saw it coming before it even happened.
Perhaps it was easier to predict because the dagger was flying straight.
If I was right, the second dagger that was flying toward my heart would suddenly shoot up to my chin.
For some reason, I could see this before the dagger even came near my heart.
Knowing where the daggers would go, it was easy to deal with them.
I fired. Although my bullets wouldn’t be able to overcome his daggers, they were more than capable of changing their course.
Clang, clang, clang.
Explosive sounds rang out as the bullets clashed with the daggers.
His daggers continued to change direction as they flew forward, and I fired at their predicted trajectory.
Fragments of my bullets crumbled after hitting the daggers.
As this fierce exchange continued, I realized how I was predicting his attacks.
Throwing daggers with magic power and using magic power to change their course.
This was classified as a ‘long-range’ attack.
My Gift, Master Sharpshooter, put me at the peak of long ranged attacks. As long as an attack was long ranged, I could read its trajectory without being the attacker.
However, being able to predict their travel course was different than being able to defend against them.
Although my eyes could follow their movements, my body could not.
Bullet Time only lasted three minutes. Once Bullet Time ended, I would undoubtedly be in trouble.
Unfortunately, the flying daggers didn’t show any signs of stopping. Meanwhile, Heuk Jeon leisurely observed me from afar.
As I continued to change the daggers’ trajectory, I thought of the other weapon hidden in my Stigma.
[Awl of Weakening] [High rank – Enchant] [Poison attribute]
*An awl that weakens the pricked target.
*Enchanted with the high-rank magic effect ‘Weakening’.
This item was the weapon Tomer got from Wicked’s executive when she was tasked with weakening Rachel. Its high-rank magic effect should work on Heuk Jeon as well.
As Bullet Time ended, Heuk Jeon’s dagger grazed my shoulder.
I clenched my teeth at the sharp pain.
I just had to stick this awl in him once.
The problem was how…
Then suddenly, I thought of something.
Stigma’s magic power.
The power that turned my will into reality.
It wasn’t impossible. Although there were many things I couldn’t do with my limited streaks of Stigma, it was worth trying now that I had three.
I focused all my senses on Stigma.
Meanwhile, Heuk Jeon’s daggers cut my flesh apart, overloading my pain receptors sharply.
Still, I stood my ground and maintained my focus.
What I wanted was to stand behind him…!
Suddenly, Stigma shone brightly, its blue glow leaking through my shirt.
Immediately, the world seemed to turn upside down. As though the world was dismantled and then reassembled, the scenery distorted and changed. In the blink of an eye, I found myself standing behind Heuk Jeon.
I didn’t miss the opportunity I created.
Taking out the Awl of Weakening from Stigma, I struck down on Heuk Jeon’s shoulder.
Although he showed an incredible reaction speed, it was too late.
I released the Ghost Wolf from my chest.
The wolf jumped on Heuk Jeon’s body.
He struggled underneath the Ghost Wolf. Meanwhile, I switched the Desert Eagle to shotgun mode, barely holding myself back from collapsing on the ground.
It only took two seconds for the gun to change form.
This was the reason I attacked with the awl first. Two seconds was a rather long time.
I called the wolf back.
I could see several deep wounds on his body. The Ghost Wolf’s only flaw was its stamina and vitality. Exhausted, the Ghost Wolf jumped back inside me.
“A-Argh, fucking hell.”
Heuk Jeon glared at me hatefully, his previous leisurely attitude nowhere to be seen.
Although he was trying to raise his magic power, it was near impossible with the effect of Awl of Weakening.
“Try eating this.”
Now our positions were swapped.
I shoved the barrel of the shotgun at him.
“This might hurt if it doesn’t end quickly.”
But right when I was about to pull the trigger…
[12 hours have passed since the first cadet completed the Tower climb. The exam is now over.]
The exam ended, thus saving Heuk Jeon’s life. Immediately, a blinding light engulfed me. I could feel myself being transported to another place.
Who knew someone could be even luckier than me?
Heuk Jeon was it? I would inevitably run into him again, so I could deal with him then.
…I should tell Boss.
After the exam, I came back to the waiting room alone, staring at my smartwatch.
[Your understanding of Stigma’s magic power increases.]
[A new function, ‘Idea Imprint’, has been added.]
[Idea Imprint – store Stigma’s magic power as a special idea. You can store a total of two ideas. Magic power cost for stored ideas are halved.]
Stigma received a new ability, obviously because of my use of Stigma during my fight with Heuk Jeon. I immediately knew what technique I needed to store.
The short distance teleportation I used in the previous fight.
Although moving a mere 50 meters used two and a half streaks of Stigma, I couldn’t say it was too costly, as teleportation was an ability that could only be gained through Gifts.
“Hey, Kim Hajin!”
I was tapping on the smartwatch keyboard when I heard two people calling my name.
I raised my head. Chae Nayun and Kim Suho were running toward me.
“Ah, w-what happened to your face? How did you become so ugly? Are you okay?!”
Chae Nayun rubbed the injuries on my body with a worried face. But… was she worried about me or making fun of me? It was a bit insulting.
“I wouldn’t be here otherwise.”
“Was that bastard really an exam overseer? Did you clear the stage?”
I ignored Chae Nayun and turned to Kim Suho. Chae Nayun must have told him what happened as Kim Suho looked just as worried as Chae Nayun.
At that moment, Chae Nayun found a deep cut on my waist.
“Wha! What’s this, it’s so deep… I can see inside your skin!”
I was the one who was hurt, so why was she so anxious?
I calmly stared at Chae Nayun, who was rubbing my arms, shoulders, sides, and thighs.
“Oh right, Kim Suho, the potion.”
“Ah, I almost forgot. Here, Hajin, it’s a potion for external injuries.”
Kim Suho handed me a potion.
“Huh? Oh… no, it’s fine.”
I slowly took a step back. I didn’t really want to apply such a painful potion. Not to mention, external injury potions were especially painful.
“Ah, don’t run away.”
However, Chae Nayun snatched my hand, then opened the potion and wet a gauze with it.
The wet gauze touched my wound.
An excruciating pain sundered through my body.
“Ahuk, ah, hey, go easy on me.”
“…Come on, it’s not that bad.”
Chae Nayun smiled, although I really was in pain.
When Chae Nayun finished treating me, my smartwatch suddenly rang.
[Your body has memorized 1.5% of emergency recovery potion’s injury recovery medicinal effect.]
Oh right, recovery potions were a type of medicine too.
For some reason, I’d forgotten about it until now.
…I questioned my own intelligence.
“There. By the way, what happened to Princess?”
“Rachel? She’s… oh, there she is.”
In the distance, Rachel was crying while desperately speaking to an instructor. I could hear her say, ‘please find Kim Hajin!’
My smartwatch rang again. It really was working overtime toda…
My face became as stiff as a plank of wood.
This time, it wasn’t an alert. It was a message.
A serious one, at that.
[I talked with the other members about the request you made.]
The sender was Boss.
As soon as I saw the first line of her message, my heart dropped a beat.
“Hey, I need to go to the restroom.”
“Huh? But there’s no restroom nearby— ah, hey, where are you going!?”
Avoiding Chae Nayun and Kim Suho, I went to the most isolated place I could find and sat down. After looking around to make sure I was alone, I checked the rest of Boss’ message.
[The result. 5 yes, 5 no.]
An even split.
I clenched my teeth. As I thought, killing Chae Jinyoon was something even the almighty Chameleon Troupe hesitated to do.
However, Chameleon Troupe had a total of 11 members, excluding the empty seat.
[But I have yet to decide.]
As I thought, Boss was the one who didn’t vote.
I sent her a short message and waited for her reply. However, she didn’t reply for a while. I didn’t know whether she was simply slow at typing or actually trying to keep me on my toes.
As I was getting impatient, Boss’ reply finally arrived.
[You’ve already killed several people. But you were on missions, and they were all evil people who deserved to die.]
[Your request is different than your missions. This time, you said you wanted to kill someone yourself. No matter what the reason may be, if you commit murder out of your own will, a heavy weight will be placed on your conscious.]
The tone of her message was solemn. Though, I had a strong hunch that she was only pretending to be kind.
But… as someone who used to write for a living, I couldn’t help but notice a small mistake that ruined the serious atmosphere.
[Will you be able to endure it?]
[Um, Boss, I’m sorry to say this, but it’s ‘conscience’, not conscious.]
[If you can]
Boss’ message was cut mid-sentence.
I couldn’t help but think I made a mistake, but it was already too late.
Then again, this was probably better than making a similar mistake in person.
Boss returned a single question mark.
[Ah, I’m sorry.]
Although I quickly apologized, Boss seemed to be sulking as she didn’t reply back.
Feeling a bit anxious, I called Boss.
Thankfully, she picked up immediately.
—…What is it?
She sounded unenthusiastic.
I sighed out of relief and apologized once again.