Chapter 144. Chameleon Troupe (1)


In a deteriorated cave, ten members of the Chameleon Troupe, including Boss, were present.

All of them were at least at the high-rank level and were powerful figures who had the ability to interfere in any major incident. As a result, the cave was being filled with their aura and magic power.
Most cadets would faint under this pressure, but I was lucky. Because I didn’t have any magic power in my body, I was unaffected by the enormous amount of magic power they had in their bodies.
In other words, I was unaffected by ‘magic power resonance’, a phenomenon that occurred when there was a huge difference in the level of magic power between two or more people.

“Oi! Now that we have all 11 members, why don’t we have a ranking tournament!?”

Cheok Jungyeong shouted as he cracked his neck and knuckles. He might not have meant to shout, but his voice was just naturally loud.

“I’m down.”

A gentle-faced man spoke. He was Chameleon Troupe’s spear user, the Seat of Green, Jin Yohan. If I remembered correctly, his current weapon should be the Serpent Spear.
As the spear used by Zhang Fei of the Three Kingdoms, it was a historical artifact. Its unique ability should be ‘limitless weight adjustment’.

“Then do it outside. Don’t destroy this place.”

“I’m out.”

Setryn and Jain each spoke. Setryn was an Egyptian woman wearing all sorts of jewelry. As one might expect, she was modeled after Cleopatra. Her beauty should easily rank in the top 10 of this world.

“Are you joining in, Newbie?”

Cheok Jungyeong looked at me and grinned.
I immediately felt a chill run down my back, but I managed to ignore him and talk to Boss.

“Can I begin refurbishing this place now?”

Boss didn’t order me and only blinked her large eyes.

“Shouldn’t we give Newbie more time? He’s still too young.”

Jain came to my rescue. Just like she said, I still needed time. A lot of time.
…Though, I may still be dead last compared to them even in 10 years.

“It’s fine~ I’ll go easy. Kids are supposed to grow by getting beat up~”

Jin Yohan took out his Serpent Spear. At the same time, beads of sweat began to form on my forehead.

“What do you think?”

Setryn licked her finger and stared at me seductively.

“Hey—! I told you, he might look like a weakling, but he’s actually—!”

“Jungyeong, didn’t I tell you not to shout? Want me to stitch your lips shut?”

“…Haha, bitch finally went crazy.”

Thankfully, Cheok Jungyeong and Setryn got into a fight.
In any case, there were only four talkative members. The rest only stared at me silently or were yawning out of boredom.

“Come outside, I’ll crush your head. I won’t go easy just because you’re a woman.”

“Oh, our Jungyeong’s finally going to have his neck slashed~”

“…Haha, why don’t we just do that tournament then?”

“Quiet.”

A single word from Boss cooled the heated atmosphere.

“There’s something I need to give you.”

Boss rummaged through her pocket and took something out. It was a piece of crumpled paper.

“Take this.”

“…?”

Puzzled, I took the paper.

“What is this?”

“A grade-1 magic contract.”

I checked the paper’s description with my smartwatch.

===
[Grade-1 Magic Contract] [High-rank magic item]
—Contract Seal
*Contract seal recognizes each party’s identity.
*Those tied together by contract seals must keep the content of the contract.
===

It was a higher ranked magic contract than the ones I usually saw.
I checked the content of the contract.

+ + +
[Contract]
Clause 1. Kim Hajin cannot betray me.
Clause 2. As long as Kim Hajin does not betray me, I will do my duty to him as the boss.
Clause 3. Whoever breaks the contract will suffer a magic power deviation.
(Duration – 6 years)

+ + +

There were only three childish clauses written on the contract.

“…Um, Boss.”

“What.”

I thought about how to explain it.
Of course, a magic power contract didn’t need to be as detailed as a real contract, but loose wording could always lead to loopholes.

“…Hm.”

However, Boss must have misunderstood my hesitation, as she shot back curtly.

“Are you afraid of joining us?”

Immediately, ten pairs of eyes fell on me.
Although they were only curious gazes, a chill went down my back. The aura given off by each of the members was terrifying to say the least.

“Of course not. I just thought that these clauses were too loose.”

“Ah, you don’t have to worry about that. It’s an expensive contract, so it’s quite intelligent.”

“…I see.”

An intelligent contract. That was indeed interesting.
I infused Stigma’s magic power into the contract. In truth, this contract was unlikely to work on me, as Stigma’s magic power wasn’t inside my body.
In a way, it was a bit of a cheat.

“Will this do?”

Stigma’s magic power seeped into the contract.

“Oh? What’s this? Your magic power is unbelievably pure!”

When Cheok Jungyeong saw my magic power, he exclaimed in awe and expressed his interest once again.

“Look, Boss, it’s so clear and blue. It’s the first time I’ve seen such a thing.”

As Cheok Jungyeong said, Stigma’s magic power should be the purest form of magic power. Although I wasn’t sure exactly what it was or how it worked, it was, after all, the ‘Authority of the Creator’.

“Wow, this kid sure is a treasure. Argh, I can’t hold it back anymore. Come out and spar with me—!”

“…I’ll watch too.”

“Quiet, both of you.”

Even Jain was starting to show interest in watching me fight, but Boss was thankfully here to hold them back.
Next, Boss infused her magic power into the contract.

“There, the contract is done.”

Then, she carefully folded the contract and put it back in her pocket.

“Little Apprentice, here’s a gift.”

With that, Boss handed me an accessory.
It was the necklace of the Seat of Black.
The completely jet-black necklace that was the proof of Chameleon Troupe’s ‘Black’ color.

===
[Necklace of Black] [Artifact] [Unawakened]
—Increases all variable stats by 1 point.
—Invisibility
*This necklace can become invisible.
—??? (item must be awakened)
===

Each member of the Chameleon Troupe had a symbolic item given to them. The item of the Seat of Black was a simple yet powerful item with the effect of raising every stat by 1 point.

“Oh~ looks like that thing finally found an owner. Now, let’s go spar to celebrate.”

Cheok Jungyeong suggested once again. Why was this guy so interested in me?

“…Sorry, there’s something I need to do now.”

“Do it later.”

No, I couldn’t do it later. There wasn’t a single member of the Chameleon Troupe I could win against. In fact, I wouldn’t last more than 10 seconds against anyone.
I turned towards Boss.

“I have a mission I have to do.”

At that moment, someone grabbed my sleeve.

“Hyung, Hyung, can you show me your gun?”

A young boy who had yet to go through puberty.
I turned towards the direction of Droon’s cute voice.
Droon was a Caucasian boy who was only 11 to 13 years old.
However, he couldn’t be underestimated because of his young age.
Frankly, there was no problem classifying Droon as the world's strongest. Though, to be exact, it was that thing that was stuck to Droon that was strong.

“…My real weapon isn’t my gun.”

I gave some half-hearted excuse as I didn’t want to show him my Desert Eagle.

“Eh!? Really? Really!? You use an even more amazing weapon than that cowardly weapon!?”

Cheok Jungyeong shouted once again.
What was I supposed to do about this numbskull?

“Haha~ I knew it this whole time.”

“Um, I still want to see it.”

Seeing Droon’s pleading eyes, I gave in and took out my gun. There was nothing to lose by being nice to Droon.

“…Do you want to touch it?”

“Yes!”

I gave Droon the Desert Eagle. Droon began to touch my gun with eyes full of interest.
At that moment, ‘that thing’ shot up from Droon’s back.
A fat, shadowy rabbit flashed its crimson eyes and stared at my gun.
Soon, a smile emerged on the rabbit’s face.
Droon also smiled and gave the gun back to me.

“It’s a good weapon~”

Droon also had the role of Chameleon Troupe’s appraiser.
Since Droon praised my weapon, I could be proud with all the options I added to the gun.

“…Thanks.”

“If you’re done with your introductions, focus.”

Boss gathered everyone’s attention.

“The reason I summoned everyone today isn’t just to greet a new member.”

Boss put on a serious smile and clenched her fists.

“2 weeks later, we will begin our ‘activities’ for real.”

Immediately, the atmosphere in the cave changed. Cheok Jungyeong’s expression was particularly noteworthy.
Grinning from ear to ear, he was full of excitement for Boss’ upcoming words.

**


Clear sunlight shone down on a beautiful morning.

“…Haa.”

Yoo Jinhyuk got up from his couch with a sigh. Despite the beautiful weather, he wasn’t feeling so good.

“Tsk.”

He clicked his tongue and opened the door to his office bedroom.
Drrk—
Beyond the sliding door, a girl was lying on his bed like a vampire sleeping in its coffin.

“…When is she going to go back?”

Today was the fifth, no, sixth day.
Yoo Yeonha declared that she wouldn’t go back until he told her the ‘truth’.

“Ehew.”

When she first came to see him, he thought she would leave after a day or two at most.
However, his stubborn niece didn’t give up. In fact, she bugged him more and more every day.
It would have been one thing if she just stayed holed up in his office, but she was also constantly looking around the town, looking for anything of ‘business value’.
As a result, Yoo Yeonha became famous in the shanty town Yoo Jinhyuk was in.

“Will you finally tell me the truth now?”

At that moment, Yoo Yeonha’s voice rang out. Startled, Yoo Jinhyuk swallowed his saliva.
Yoo Yeonha continued, still lying on the bed.

“Tell me.”

“…No, I really don’t know anything.”

Yoo Yeonha got up. Her flawless beauty made it hard to believe she just woke up.

“That’s fine. I’ll just stay until you do.”

“You…”

Yoo Jinhyuk asked Yoo Jinwoong to take back his daughter. However, Yoo Jinwoong surprisingly asked him to have her stay, saying that being with him was safer for her than being in Cube. Of course, he didn’t forget to mention that he would kill Yoo Jinhyuk if he laid even a finger on Yoo Yeonha.

“…Plus, I already know some things.”

“Oh yeah? Like what?”

Yoo Yeonha hesitated momentarily, then sighed.

“I guess I have no choice. If neither of us tells each other anything, it doesn’t look like we’ll get anywhere. But just know that I can’t tell you where I got this information from.”

“…Sure.”

Yoo Jinhyuk answered half-heartedly. As far as he was concerned, whatever information Yoo Yeonha had had to be a groundless rumor.

“The information I have is simple. Kuhum.”

After a cough, Yoo Yeonha continued.

“Chae Jinyoon… became a devil.”

Yoo Yeonha muttered as though it was the truth.
Immediately, Yoo Jinhyuk’s hair stood on end. However, he maintained his commanding appearance and did not show his agitation outwards.

“Devil? Like Satan and all those devils from the Bible?”

“No, you know what I’m talking about. The existences above Djinns. The evil gods who give power to Djinns.”

“What….”

Yoo Jinhyuk was about to blow off the conversation, but he suddenly remembered a voice he heard with his ability.
The voice belonged to the medical examiner who was speaking in front of Chae Jinyoon’s corpse.

—This is even more elaborate than the Djinns’ Devil Transformation. You can see that it is persisting even after his death.”

Something that was even more elaborate than the Devil Transformation…
The pieces of the puzzle fell in.

“…So you do know something. Maybe I should have told you earlier.”

Yoo Jinhyuk’s expression revealed his brief thought, and Yoo Yeonha didn’t forget to point it out.
In the end, Yoo Jinhyuk sighed.

“…Ehew, just so you know, I’ve been staying quiet to protect you. If handled wrong, even your mom and dad might end up being killed.”

“…Eh?”

“So wouldn’t it be better that I be the only one who might die?”

Yoo Yeonha stared at him silently, then added.

“Are we that weak?”

“…What?”

“Are we so weak that our entire family will be killed because we defied one person?”

Yoo Jinhyuk became speechless. He couldn’t think of any way to respond.

“If so, I’ll make us stronger.”

Yoo Yeonha spoke daringly.
However, that was impossible to achieve. The Yoo clan was the Chae clan’s hunting dog from birth. As a clan that grew by performing the Chae clan’s dirty work, it was at the mercy of Chae Joochul’s hands…

“So trust me.”

Yoo Yeonha’s naïve words cut off Yoo Jinhyuk’s thoughts. Looking at his niece, Yoo Jinhyuk smiled.
A kid that always acted like a grown-up had finally become an adult.
He couldn’t help but be amazed.

**


[Mission Commencement. D-10]

Four days passed since then. With Khalifa’s help, I went back and forth between Chameleon Troupe’s hideout and my apartment house while continuing my [Chameleon Troupe Hideout Renovation and Dexterity Level-up Project].
During the past four days, I realized that Dexterity was quite a difficult Gift to level-up to the point that I couldn’t be more grateful to Master Sharpshooter for helping it become grade-7.

Jiiing—

The first thing I did was create a small workshop in the cave. Currently, I was working on a couch. Dexterity’s proficiency went up more when I crafted bigger objects but because crafting items took Stigma’s magic power, I couldn’t make anything bigger than a couch.

The process for creating the couch was as follows.
First was coming up with a design with the help of Aether’s Aesthetic Greed. Next was buying expensive materials and creating the couch’s frame with Stigma’s magic power. Lastly, I had to stuff the couch with the highest grade fillings, then cover everything up with monster alligator skin.

Although it was easy to describe, the whole process took nine hours to complete.

“Whew.”

Now, it was finally over.
I clutched my head and fell on my chair.

[Dexterity’s proficiency increases by 1.5%!]

“1.5% for all that work…”

It was too stingy, but I also had more than enough time.

===
[Through luck, Devilish Dexterity activates.]
[‘Alligator Skin Couch’ has been judged to be a high-rank furniture. A special effect will be granted to fit its status.]
[Special effect – Significance of Rest]
*This couch will quickly burn off any exhaustion.
*Whoever sleeps on this couch will wake up refreshed.
===

I couldn’t make furniture that gave temporary stat bonuses, but this was more than praiseworthy for a piece of furniture.

“Hm.”

I picked up the couch I built. With my superhuman strength stat, lifting heavy objects stopped being a problem.

“Here’s a couch~”

I came out of the workshop and announced my creation.
Boss was the first member to see me.

“…You built another one?”

Boss woke up from her sleep (surprisingly, she slept standing), and murmured apathetically. Around her were other pieces of furniture such as a table, TV drawer, etc.

“Little Apprentice, don’t you think you’re changing this place too quickly? I think I need time to adjust.”

For the past four days, I’ve been slowly changing Chameleon Troupe’s hideout.
I first created a resting place for Boss.
I set aside a 160 square meter space and turned it into a modern room by smoothing out the walls, ceiling, and floor, then painted it white.

“You have to at least live like a person. Also, why don’t you watch TV? There are many good variety shows.”

“I’m not interested in those.”

“Just try it.”

I put the couch at an appropriate distance away from the TV.

“Try sitting down.”

“….”

However, Boss shook her head.

“I’ve never sit down to rest. I like standing.”

“…Then I’m going back to the workshop.”

I returned to the workshop.
After closing the door, I peered through the door and observed Boss.

—…why is it so big?

Boss glanced at the couch, then poked it here and there with her foot. However, it didn’t look like she planned on sitting down.

“That’s a bit sad.”

Would she sit down if I made her a better one?
Unfortunately, because making furniture expended Stigma’s magic power, making more than one was a waste.
Now, I needed to do my next task. Training.
I needed to wield a more threatening weapon than a gun. Not to mention, having more options was better for battles.

Shoo—

“Start.”

I held ten knives I created in my hands and initiated a training program.
At the same time, holographic targets shot up 300 meters away. As though they were besieging me, eleven targets were equally spaced around me.
I threw my knives at them.
Chweeek—
These knives would undoubtedly strike all eleven targets.
However, I wanted more.
The moment I threw the knives, I took out the bow hanging behind my back and…

“Uwoah!”

My neck got caught on the bowstring, and I fell forward.

“…Argh, I almost died.”

I almost killed myself.

“My neck….”

It was indeed too difficult.
Because of Dexterity’s low proficiency level, using knives, a bow, and a gun simultaneously was a bit difficult. Unless I had another arm…
Wait.
Another arm?
I immediately thought of Stigma.
Even Stigma wouldn’t be able to create another arm, but I should be able to utilize it to make it seem like I did.
Of course, this had to be tested later.
I’d already used 2.5 streaks of Stigma on building my couch.

“I’ll try it tomorrow.”

Then, I looked outside the workshop without much thought.

“…Eh?”

A small grin emerged on my face.
Boss was sitting on the couch. As if that wasn’t enough, she was bouncing on the couch cushion as though she was surprised by its softness and coziness.

—…Swamp Alligator skin? It’s true that their skins are known to be great.

After giving the couch a review, she turned her attention to the small couch chair I made a couple days ago. After glancing at my workshop for a second, she brought the couch chair over and put her feet on top of it.
She looked extremely comfy.

—Mmm~

Boss closed her eyes with a satisfied hum.
Then, as though she was missing something, she reached out and grabbed the TV remote on the couch.

[email protected]#[email protected]#”

—Hiik!

Startled by the loud volume, she hurriedly lowered it.

“…How cute.”

Right, that was how people changed.
My first goal, ‘making Boss watch TV’, was a success.

“Then I guess I’ll go back to practicing…”

I smiled and picked up the knives I threw.
I couldn’t stay down just because of one failure.
For now, I had to give my best on whatever I did.
…But, one cigarette first.

*


After practicing for three hours, I went outside.

“Hm?”

When I was thinking about going out to buy a cigarette, I heard a faint breathing sound.
I tilted my head and looked over in that direction.

“…Is she sleeping?”

Boss was lying on the couch, sleeping with her arms out. It wasn’t too long ago that she said she liked to sleep standing up.
I grinned and took out my smartwatch.
This was the perfect chance for a photo.
I muted the phone and took pictures of Boss sleeping.
Boss still didn’t show any signs of waking up. Was my couch that good?
While I was being satisfied with myself, I suddenly received a message.

[I confirmed the truth. Nayun is also awake.]

Yoo Yeonha had finally messaged me after a week of silence.
I tried to reply to her gladly. However…

“……!”

A pang of pain suddenly struck my arm.
An agonizing pain akin to my arm being ripped off.
The feeling of another streak of Stigma being added to my arm.
I knew what this meant. However…

“Fuck…”

It's just too painful.
I used the painkiller medicinal effect I prepared for moments like this, but the pain only got clearer.
I clenched my teeth.
Forcing my eyes open, I confirmed the alerts popping up on my smartwatch.

===
[A fourth streak of Stigma is added.]
[From the fifth, Stigma will require more total SP gained.]
[Your laptop is updating.]
—Adding Functionalities…
===

However, my consciousness faded away under the continued pain, and soon, my vision turned dark.

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