“Sorry, I’m in the middle of an exam, so we’ll have to discuss the details later.”
—Fine. Also, just so you know, it was a typo, not a grammatical error. I was a bit offended by you pointing it out. I was going to fix it….
By the time I finished consoling Boss and set up an appointment to meet later…
“Kim Hajin, is Kim Hajin here?”
One of the instructors walking around the waiting room called my name.
When I ended the call in a hurry and raised my hand, the instructor made a surprised face.
“Kuhum, Rachel is looking for you. Looks like you two got separated during the exam. Tell her not to make such a big deal out of it. This isn’t England, so she can’t order us around….”
The instructor clicked his tongue and reported to the higher ups.
“All cadets are accounted for.”
Then, he quickly left.
Next, I tried to look for Rachel, but I didn’t need to.
She was standing behind the instructor who left.
She was staring at me silently with her eyes glistening with tears.
Feeling like I made her worry for nothing, I felt a bit sorry. I should have looked for her first.
Soon, Rachel opened her mouth.
“I was looking for you. You should have told me you were okay….”
“Ah, sorry. There was a matter I had to tend to.”
Rachel sighed. Then, she murmured in a barely audible whisper.
Her sincerity hit me with quite a bit of damage. Thankfully, it was an indirect attack. Otherwise, my heart would have skipped more than just a beat.
“So, what happened in that last stage…?”
“Well, I won.”
“Eh? Wow, really? Against a member of Dark Moon…”
She suddenly stopped mid-sentence and looked around. She then continued in a softer voice.
“Against a member of Dark Moon Society?”
“Yeah, I beat him up.”
To be honest, I barely turned the situation around after suffering several lacerations. But Rachel didn’t have to know that.
Rachel looked awestruck with her mouth half-open and her eyes shining like jewels.
When I shrugged, Rachel nodded, fully accepting the situation.
“From today, I’ll have to call Hajin-ssi Master.”
“…Yes? Ah, no, you don’t need to do that.”
I wanted to refuse a master-apprentice relationship that would shatter after a single proper one-on-one fight.
…No, I felt like I could win against her once. Rachel has probably never fought against someone with so many tricks up their sleeve.
“Please, you don’t have to.”
I scratched my neck, feeling a bit embarrassed.
“…Cadet Rachel, Cadet Kim Hajin.”
At that moment, Kim Soohyuk approached us.
“Ah, Instructor Kim.”
“What’s going on?”
The instructor of Veritas class was trustworthy and honorable, unlike the rude instructor from before.
Rachel and I explained everything that happened in the tower’s final exam room to Kim Soohyuk.
With a serious face, Kim Soohyuk said he would report it to the academy, but Cube’s executives would likely have little reaction to it.
Since Rachel and I were the only witnesses, there were many excuses Cube executives could make.
More than likely, they would say that was how the stage was, or that we misunderstood the instructor’s intention.
“Anyways, well done.”
Kim Soohyuk pat our shoulders and turned back.
I asked Rachel who was standing next to me.
“…What are you going to do now, Rachel-ssi?”
“Me? I’m going back to England tonight… Master.”
With a teasing smile, Rachel added the word Master.
I took special care to not look at her smile.
Rachel was the type of person who would change the more she opened up her heart. The way she was changing right now was too fatal for my heart.
I returned a small smile, and feeling my smartwatch vibrate, I looked down.
[I learned how to text. Hayang helped me.]
[But when are you coming back, Hajin? I want to see you.]
Nowadays, Evandel was way too into the smartwatch I got her. She even learned how to look up videos on YouTube. She would probably learn how to order food soon.
‘…Let’s hurry home and eat with Evandel.’
The first week of winter break.
Inside a nameless Dungeon in Baekdu Mountain Range’s Upper Sword Mountain.
“…Whew~ good work, Hajin.”
I was sprawled on the ground, hearing Kim Suho’s praise.
“Wow, my hands are still shaking. Wasn’t that super fun?”
Although Kim Suho was reflecting on our previous battle with a bright smile, I was too shaken to do anything.
The boss of this Dungeon was a venomous snake called Jǫr.
It was an intermediate-rank grade-1 monster that spat out black venom.
The strategy I came up with was simple.
As a sharpshooter, I would be the support, and as a warrior, Kim Suho would charge in.
Things mostly went according to plan. Kim Suho marched forward, cutting down its venom, and I shot Jǫr’s eyes from the back.
However, the damned monster began to rampage after losing its sight. Shooting its venom everywhere, it attacked without caring for its own safety. If I didn’t have the detox medicinal effect memorized, I would have died in vain.
“Is this urn the reward?”
“Yeah, that should be it. That was what Jǫr was protecting, right?”
I forced myself to get up.
“But what is it?”
“I’ll have to appraise it first.”
When I put my hand out, Kim Suho gave the urn to me without a hint of hesitation.
[Jar of Greed]
A jar full of greed.
When you put an item inside, a random greed will adhere to the item.
This was one of the randomization items I created.
It was easy to use. You just had to put an item in it and let it sit for about ten days. Although no one knew what crazy effect would be added to the item, with my luck, I wasn’t too worried.
“You can take this one.”
Kim Suho suddenly spoke up.
“…Mm? What do you mean?”
“Isn’t it obvious? I took Misteltein, so you should take this one.”
I knew that this jar could be used twice.
“It’s fine. I’m happy with the combat experience I gained today…. Oh right, if you feel bad about taking it, then let’s go on a trip together.”
I didn’t reply to Kim Suho. I just lay down and pretended to sleep.
Kim Suho laughed, and time passed by in silence.
The silence was broken by the vibration of a smartwatch.
It wasn’t mine.
Then it should naturally be Kim Suho’s.
I turned my head and saw Kim Suho typing earnestly.
Seeing this, I felt like I knew who the sender was.
“Yun Seung-Ah again?”
Kim Suho flinched.
I couldn’t help but laugh.
Although this wasn’t my intention, Yun Seung-Ah and Kim Suho ended up getting close a lot earlier. In the original story, Yun Seung-Ah couldn’t even text Kim Suho, because Chae Nayun constantly kept a watchful eye.
“You guys going out?”
“Huh? N-No, how could someone like me go out with Senior Seung-Ah.”
“…If you aren’t worthy, then no one is.”
Kim Suho’s looks alone were more than enough to make girls fawn over him.
“You’re good at changing the subject.”
“N-No, I’m going back to what we talked about before. About that trip.”
“…You like going on trips that much?”
“No, it’s just that I’m leaving on the 20th. We won’t see each other for almost 3 months.”
Kim Suho continued with a serious face.
“And you can also get closer to Nayun.”
“Yeah, Chae Nayun changed a lot. Now, she’s…”
“No, not that.”
I changed the subject.
“If I also get closer to Chae Nayun, that means you, Kim Suho, are getting closer to someone too… and that’s Yun Seung-Ah.”
“N-No, it’s not like that!”
Kim Suho shot up angrily.
“Haha, it’s also not like that for me. I don’t like Chae Nayun. I never said I did in the first place.”
“Eh? Really? That’s not good.”
“Not good how?”
Kim Suho closed his mouth.
He seemed to have talked to Chae Nayun about me. Should I hack into their smartwatches later?
“Anyways, you take this jar. But you have to come on the trip.”
I smiled and nodded at Kim Suho’s generous offer.
Since I would have never been able to clear this Dungeon without him, I could at least do that much for him.
On a cold winter day, I left for a trip with Kim Suho, Shin Jonghak, Yoo Yeonha, Yi Yeonghan, and Chae Nayun.
Our destination was a luxury resort near Gyeongpodae. Currently, we were heading to Daehyun Group’s 5-star hotel.
To fully enjoy the trip, Chae Nayun suggested that we take a car from Seoul to Gyeongpodae.
But since none of us had a driver’s license, we had to take a limousine.
Although everyone was full of energy at first, only Yoo Yeonha remained awake past the 30-minute mark.
I watched Yoo Yeonha happily eating chocoballs.
It was one of the snacks Chae Nayun brought to liven up the trip. Although Yoo Yeonha showed no interest in it at first, she practically made a 180 once everyone fell asleep.
The way she savored each chocoball was quite funny.
Suddenly, our eyes met.
Yoo Yeonha looked at me and reluctantly gave me the box of chocoballs.
“Would you like some?”
“No, I’m fine.”
“…That’s a good choice. It’s not that good.”
As she said that, she put another chocoball in her mouth.
At that moment, the limousine shook, and Chae Nayun’s head fell on my shoulder. Her hair’s fragrant scent tickled my nose.
Yoo Yeonha murmured to herself at the sudden turn of events. I pushed Chae Nayun’s head to the side.
But in two minutes, her head fell on my shoulder again.
She wasn’t awake, right?
When I turned back to the front after deciding to give up, I met eyes with Yoo Yeonha. For some reason, she was looking at us with a sad expression.
“…Yes? Ah… um, I just felt bad. Nayun’s head must be heavy.”
“Mm, I guess you’re right. Her head’s too big.”
I dissed Chae Nayun to check if she was awake, but there was no reaction.
It seemed she really was asleep.
After another 30 minutes of driving, we arrived at our destination, a resort that made my jaw drop. In fact, even the buildings near the resort were luxurious.
Gangwondo sure lived up to its setting, where its GDP matched that of a small country.
Chae Nayun got up as soon as we arrived and guided us with a lively voice.
Our home for the next two days was a huge party room with six bedrooms.
We put our bags in our rooms and met in the living room.
“Our schedule is really tight, so make sure you don’t get lost!”
Chae Nayun shouted as she smiled joyfully. Everyone seemed to be looking forward to what she had planned.
…However, from 12:00 to 9:00, we were forced to participate in a nine-course schedule, consisting of pool, bowling, jet skiing, swimming, hot spring bathing, and other events.
I for one didn’t know whether we were enjoying a trip or training for the Olympics.
The final event of the day was a barbeque party. With Gyeongpodae’s scenic view in the background, we enjoyed some of the highest quality meat.
Looking at the meat being cooked on the grill, I felt myself relax.
“Kim Hajin, this is stuck. Give me a hand.”
Chae Nayun, who was standing next to me, tapped on my shoulder. I turned around and saw a piece of meat stuck on the grill.
“…I can do the grilling alone.”
Everyone else was sitting on the table, but Chae Nayun insisted on helping me grill.
“Oh right, I bought a motorcycle too.”
“Yep, it’s parked in the parking lot. Want to go on a drive after this?”
“Do you have a motorcycle driver’s license?”
“I do, but you’ll need to take the wheel. I’m still inexperienced.”
“Oh? What’s this~?”
At that moment, Yi Yeonghan’s teasing voice rang out.
“What are you two doing over there~?”
Chae Nayun frowned and glared at Yi Yeonghan.
“Shut up, Yi Yeonghan.”
“Why don’t you leave the cooking to one person? There’s no reason for you to help out.”
Shin Jonghak muttered somewhat annoyed. He still had the meat I gave him stacked up on his plate. It seemed he was too busy paying attention to us to eat.
“Why? It’s nice to see.”
Kim Suho chimed in.
Shin Jonghak glared at Kim Suho strongly.
“W-What do you mean it’s nice to see? Y-You shut up too, Kim Suho.”
Chae Nayun stuttered and glanced up at me.
Our eyes met for a brief moment, but we quickly dodged each other’s eyes.
Chae Nayun let out a dry cough with a reddened face.
“Hey, don’t have any strange thoughts.”
“…Why? Did things go well with Rachel?”
She suddenly pouted and grumbled.
“What are you talking about?”
“Oi, Kim Suho, why don’t we go back to the pool table after this? The loser has to go swim in the ocean.”
“Sure, I’m down.”
Shin Jonghak and Kim Suho planned for another match.
On the other hand, Yi Yeonghan was staring at Chae Nayun and me mischievously, and Yoo Yeonha was completely focused on looking for an opportunity to cook ramen.
Seeing them, I laughed silently.
It was the kind of atmosphere that called for soju.
The night sky full of starlight, the fond sound of crashing waves, and the people whom I now felt lonely without.
Standing alongside them, I was deeply moved.
The emotion I thought I would never feel in this world – affection.
If I had a glass of alcohol, I felt like I could really let myself go today.
Chae Nayun tapped on my shoulder.
“See, aren’t you glad you came?”
Chae Nayun had a beautiful smile.
I couldn’t deny it.
“It’s not bad.”
“Heh, I know you love it.”
Chae Nayun grinned.
At that moment, her smartwatch rang.
“Ah, let me deal with this. Hello?”
She picked up the call and put on earphones.
“Ah, yes, I’m Chae Nayun.”
I could hear the voice coming from her earphones.
She suddenly dropped the tongs she was holding.
As the voice continued to talk, her hands trembled, her breathing sped up, and her eyes widened with shock.
She stopped there.
—Yes! Patient Chae Jinyoon woke up! Though, he’s currently sleeping…
Chae Nayun seemed to stop breathing.
What I was worried about ended up happening. Chae Jinyoon had woken up before the seed sprouted.
I closed my eyes. I needed some time to think.
But soon, Chae Nayun hung up the call and pulled on my sleeve.”
Looking up at me with tear filled eyes, Chae Nayun pleaded.
“Please give me a ride.”
Domestic Portals had closed 30 minutes ago.