I opened my eyes to a white ceiling.
My mind felt hazy and my vision was foggy.
Was I dreaming? Or did I wake up from a dream?
The boundary between reality and dreams was ambiguous.
However, the smell of cigarette smoke on my body woke up me to the truth. The painful reality that I hoped wasn’t true flooded into my mind.
I couldn’t deny reality no matter how much I wanted to.
Chae Nayun sniffled. Letting out a sigh, she looked outside the window. Perhaps because she let out her pent up feelings, the current of emotions that seemed to be eating away at her disappeared, leaving behind calmness.
At that moment, a soft voice rang out. Chae Nayun turned to the direction of the voice.
Yoo Sihyuk’s calm eyes were looking down at her. Chae Nayun stared at him with widened eyes.
Yoo Sihyuk sighed.
“Haa…. You can come back to the mountain whenever you want. For now, take your time and rest.”
Yoo Sihyuk rarely let go of disciples he accepted. Chae Nayun and Chae Jinyoon were two of the few disciples he acknowledged.
Unaccustomed to Yoo Sihyuk’s kindness, Chae Nayun only stared at him blankly.
“What, got a problem?”
“…No, not at all.”
Chae Nayun quickly shook her head.
Chae Nayun cut Yoo Sihyuk off and raised her upper body. Seeing the black mourning clothes she was wearing, she felt her heart throb, but she didn’t want to waste any more time lying around.
“Once the burial ends, I’ll go back up right away.”
She clenched her fists.
Strong determination and conviction rose up from her heart.
Yoo Sihyuk shook his head with a concerned expression.
“No, you shouldn’t push yourself…”
“I heard he was murdered.”
Chae Nayun clenched her teeth.
Her father didn’t explain much, only that an unknown assailant attacked Chae Jinyoon.
“…I was told so as well.”
Chae Jinyoon was one of Yoo Sihyuk’s beloved disciples. The chilling rage he felt was noticeable even by Chae Nayun.
“…Don’t think about taking the matter into your hands, Master.”
Chae Nayun looked down at her small and calloused hands.
Finally, she found something she had to do with her hands.
Furthermore, it was something only she had the right to accomplish.
“I will find him and kill him myself.”
Yoo Sihyuk calmly looked at Chae Nayun murmuring in rage.
Suddenly, Chae Nayun widened her eyes as though she remembered something.
“Before then, please give me four days.”
“Ah, no, maybe a week is better. So um… is a week okay?”
Yoo Sihyuk narrowed his eyes. However, he couldn’t say anything to Chae Nayun, who was doing her best to hide her sorrow and show her anger.
“Just contact me whenever you’re ready.”
“…Thank you, Master.”
Yoo Sihyuk got up from his seat and opened the door to leave.
Yoo Yeonha was also walking in.
“Ah, hello, Sir Yoo Sihyuk…”
“I don’t need to be addressed so politely by a kid.”
Yoo Sihyuk poked Yoo Yeonha’s forehead before walking past her. Yoo Yeonha watched him leave with a pout, then approached Chae Nayun’s bed.
“Hey, Nayun, are you feeling better?”
“Yeah, I feel a lot better now. By the way…”
Chae Nayun didn’t finish her sentence. However, Yoo Yeonha knew what she wanted to say.
“That person went back home.”
“Ah… I see. Where’s my smartwatch?”
Yoo Yeonha pointed at the shelf. Chae Nayun grabbed her smartwatch, then grinned.
“Hey, which information guilds are good nowadays?”
It was clear what she wanted to do.
Yoo Yeonha put on a serious face and spoke.
“Leave it to me.”
Yoo Yeonha announced proudly.
“I’ll take responsibility and find out who did this.”
Hearing Chae Nayun’s exclamation of awe, Yoo Yeonha smiled.
“Since we’re friends, I’ll give you a 30% discount.”
Chae Joochul, the president of Daehyun group, had a unique hobby that was famous throughout the world.
His hobby was collecting castles, and Chae Joochul the Immortal already had over a hundred castles of various styles.
In France’s Centre-Val de Loire region was a famous castle Chae Joochul purchased.
This castle called Chateau de Chenonceau was built during the Renaissance and was an important landmark in the city.
As one of Chae Joochul’s favorite castles, it was naturally where he liked to stay. Currently, Chae Joochul was sitting on a throne inside the castle.
“To think this old man would lose his grandson at this age….”
Although Chae Joochul was well over 80 years old, no one other than himself would dare to call him an old man.
His abundant white hair was pushed up neatly, and his well-built body was adorned with a luxury suit.
The only thing that made him look like an old man was the cane he carried around with him.
“…Secretary Kim, what do you think I’m feeling?”
Chae Joochul placed the question on his secretary who was bowing in front of him.
“I wouldn’t dare imagine.”
The secretary answered. Chae Joochul then got up from his throne.
Chae Joochul’s apathetic eyes fell on his secretary. Unable to withstand these eyes, the secretary lowered his upper body even more.
“Shinhyuk should be holding a funeral right now.”
“Yes, President Chae Shinhyuk is handling the retrieval of the corpse and investigation of the suspect. He said he wanted to take care of it quietly.”
“…Is that so?”
Chae Joochul’s cane knocked on the ground.
“Seeing as how my hot-tempered son is staying quiet, something must have happened to my grandson.”
Chae Joochul didn’t react coldly at his grandson’s death. Rather, he sounded apathetic.
The secretary asked.
“…What shall we do?”
“Mm… no matter the situation, someone touched the Chae clan’s blood. If I let him off the hook, that won’t reflect very well on me.”
Chae Joochul’s voice lacked any semblance of emotion. He spoke calmly, as though it was the most natural thing to do.
“Call Yoo Jinhyuk.”
Chae Joochul smiled lightly.
Yoo Jinhyuk. Although he was a member of the Yoo clan, he was kicked out because of a great mistake he committed in the past. But because of his useful ability, Chae Joochul had kept him alive.
Since it looked like he made quite a name for himself, Chae Joochul felt it was time for him to pay back his debt.
“In that case, how shall we gauge the price?”
For the first time, Chae Joochul’s expression changed, as he furrowed one of his brows.
But soon, in the most relaxed manner, he rubbed his chin as though he was in thought.
“Price, you say…”
Then, he made a sinister laugh and spoke coldly.
“If he dares to ask for a price, tell him to carefully consider why he is still alive.”
Four days had passed since Chae Jinyoon’s three-day funeral.
Currently, I was in Seoul Grand Park.
Chae Nayun said she wanted to meet me here. When she said Chae Jinyoon was buried in a memorial in this park, there was simply no way for me to refuse.
“It’s so cold….”
I could see my breath as I waited on the bench. Currently, it was 3:10 p.m.
Ten minutes had already passed since our promised time, but Chae Nayun was nowhere to be seen.
“…I shouldn’t have come.”
I murmured in regret at the poor decision I made.
At that moment, something warm touched my shoulders, and something sharp fell on my head.
When I glanced up, Chae Nayun was pressing down on my shoulders with her hands and resting her chin on my head.
“What are you doing?”
“Sorry, were you waiting for a long time?”
“…No, not really.”
Chae Nayun sat down next to me with a smile, then leaned against my shoulder. Suddenly, she sniffed my clothes and frowned.
“You smell like cigarettes.”
I scratched my neck.
I’ve been addicted to smoking lately. It was worse than when I smoked in the past, which wasn’t too surprising given the situation I was in.
But what surprised me the most was that cigarettes had a temporary effect of raising the perseverance stat. A single cigarette raised it by 0.3 points for about an hour. I’ve spent some time to look for the best brand as well.
“But you better not.”
I couldn’t help but laugh as I said that. I never thought I’d say something so pretentious to a girl.
“But I’m already smoking it indirectly.”
Without replying to her, I raised my right shoulder, which Chae Nayun was leaning on.
Chae Nayun was pushed away.
She glared at me with a pout, then suddenly bit my shoulder.
“Ak, what’s wrong with you?”
“Don’t say strange things.”
Chae Nayun pulled her head back. I looked at her quizzically and noticed that she was scanning my clothes from top to bottom.
“Hehe, I can see that you chose your clothes carefully.”
“No, I normally wear these.”
“Please, you’re usually only wearing the cadet uniform. By the way, they look good on you.”
We talked as though everything was normal.
Chae Nayun and I both didn’t bring up anything from that day.
“Hey, I’m… going back.”
Chae Nayun suddenly changed the topic.
“Going back where?”
“To Baekdu Mountain.”
“…Will you be okay?”
Only a week had passed since Chae Jinyoon died. When I thought about it, I became stifled for breath and my hands began trembling. I could only imagine how bad it was for Chae Nayun.
“Yeah, of course.”
Even so, she gave such a cheerful reply.
I could at least be somewhat relieved.
However, Chae Nayun seemed to have something else to say, as she poked my shoulder.
“…Wait for me for just a month and a half.”
A month and a half. That was how long Chae Nayun’s training would take.
Knowing what she was implying, I suppressed the throbbing pain in my heart and feigned a smile.
“What’s in it for me if I do?”
“…I can’t tell you that.”
From this point on, everything was an uncharted territory.
It was a story I couldn’t imagine or write down.
I could only wonder how Chae Nayun and I would see each other at the end of this story.
“Don’t worry, I at least won’t run away until then.”
That was the only assurance I could give her.
It was then.
Chae Nayun wrapped her arms around my neck and pulled me in.
Her face filled my vision.
At a distance close enough for our breaths to mix and our noses to touch, Chae Nayun smiled bashfully.
“Then I can be at ease.”
With that, she placed her forehead on my chest.
After rubbing her head a few times…
“Uuu, you smell like cigarettes…”
She shot up with a frown and turned around.
Although she was trying to hide her face, I could see her bright-red ears.
“Your face is going to explode. What did you do that for?”
“W-What about my face!”
Chae Nayun stuttered.
I made a bitter smile and got up.
Standing side by side, we looked at the park’s scenery.
Under the cold winter sky, the park was bustling with countless people.
The news of Chae Jinyoon’s death swept through the entire world. However, Daehyun Group didn’t reveal much information. As a result, only unfound rumors and speculations existed on the web.
Naturally, none of them were even remotely close to the truth.
“Here you go, Kim Hajin-ssi.”
Today was January 27th.
I came all the way to the post office to receive a letter. It was because Chae Nayun didn’t know my home address and sent her letters to the Seoul Post Office.
Sitting down in front of a desk nearby, I opened the letter.
Although her personality was like a man’s, her handwriting couldn’t be more girly.
[How are you doing? I’m doing fine.
…Well, to be honest, what happened pops into my head every time I sleep. I don’t know if I can last any longer.
But what’s funny is that training is just as hard, so it’s actually making things okay.
Also, the food here is at the 3-star Michelin level. The ingredients are all highest quality because of how rich this place is in mana. It’s super good ㅋㅋ.
Oh right, I tried smoking a cigarette. I stole one from an instructor.]
I widened my eyes and continued reading.
[I can’t believe you can smoke this thing. It was so bitter that I threw it away immediately.]
…Should I say I’m glad?
In any case, I was almost at the end of the letter.
[Can you write back more often? Unlike the others, I can write letters once every four days. I’ll write another one then.]
When I put Chae Nayun’s letter down, I could see another piece of paper behind it.
It was a blank letter.
If I remembered correctly, this letter was a magical item. Once I wrote something on it, the same thing should be shown on a letter in Baekdu Mountain.
I looked at the letter.
Before coming here, I thought over and over again.
I wasn’t sure if I was I allowed to accept her letters or write to her.
I thought about just running away, disappearing from Chae Nayun’s side.
However, no matter how much I thought about it, I couldn’t get anywhere…
At that moment, a sudden scream rang out.
I looked out the post office window.
Monsters were climbing up from the manhole in the middle of the road.
I didn’t expect to see monsters in the middle of Seoul, but I wasn’t too surprised. After all, now was around the time monsters would start appearing more frequently.
I furrowed my brows and observed the world outside.
Since Heroes would arrive soon, I knew I didn’t have to take the matter into my own hands. But at that moment, I caught sight of a vicious-looking mole rat chasing after a kid.
Before I could even think, my body moved.
I left the letter behind and ran out of the post office. At the same time, I took out the Desert Eagle from Stigma.
I pulled the trigger immediately.
The bullet I fired pierced through the head of the mole rat chasing after the kid.
The mother of the kid quickly ran over and took him away.
Ordinary people began to scream and run away at the sight of the monsters.
However, I walked in the opposite direction and transformed the Desert Eagle into an assault rifle.
“There sure are many of them.”
70 or so monsters had already come out of the manhole. Although they all looked different, the strongest one among them only seemed to be at intermediate-rank grade 7.
That being the case, I aimed my gun forward and fired. I didn’t need to move the gun in any way.
The bullets I fired curved in all sorts of angles, flying in all directions. It was as though each bullet was alive and chasing after its prey.
The time it took to kill 70 monsters was no more than one second.
As soon as the gunshot sounds subsided, the road became completely silent.
I infused Stigma’s magic power into the Desert Eagle and put it away.
“…Ah, don’t take pictures.”
I admonished people who were trying to take pictures. With a slightly disappointed look, they began to furiously type.
I saw something amazing in Seoul—
I saw someone killing monsters with a gun—
They were probably writing things like that.
I couldn’t stop them, and since it was common knowledge that there was a Cube cadet using a gun, I simply returned to the post office.
When I was agonizing over what to do with the letter, an interesting piece of news came up on the post office’s TV.
[Essence of the Strait’s leader, Yoo Jinwoong, let’s his daughter take on important guild matters.]
[The world’s rank 2 guild, Essence of the Strait, caught in grave arrogation. Suspected nepotism and abuse of authority. The person in question is a 17-year-old minor?]
[Emergency. Monsters have invaded various parts of Seoul’s underground system. Although the danger level is low, civilians are recommended to stay home…]
Although the timing was a bit delayed, it finally happened.
But since I already had all the ingredients to prepare a counterpunch, I wasn’t too worried.
In fact, Yoo Yeonha would use this opportunity to purge or placate all opposition, paving way to her absolute rule.
The more important matter was this letter in front of me.Previous Chapter Next Chapter