Today’s Seoul was cloudy. The sky was filled with grey clouds as though it would rain at any moment.
Yoo Yeonha stared at the scenery outside her limousine and sighed.
“I think Hamgyeong had better air and weather. Don’t you think so?”
Her driver was taken aback. During the week Yoo Yeonha spent in Hamgyeong Province, the driver also had to stay there. It was because he didn’t want to risk going back alone and facing an accident.
“Y-Yes, you’re right.”
“If it wasn’t for the Shudderwock, Hamgyeong Province would have developed a lot.”
Hamgyoneg Province’s mountains were deep and secluded. Pure magic power filled the atmosphere, and the morning air was especially refreshing due to the mountains’ vital energy and life energy.
If it wasn’t for the dokkaebi, ‘Shudderwock’, that lived in Hamgyeong Province’s mountains, Yoo Yeonha would have loved to come by more often.
The driver agreed reluctantly.
“…Hm, I’ll have to look into the price of the land around here.”
Yoo Yeonha solidified her desire to buy Hamgyeong Province’s land. Afraid that Yoo Yeonha would want to go back, the driver stepped on the accelerator.
The limousine quickly drove off and soon, it reached Daehyun Hospital’s VIP hospital.
Chae Nayun was moved here from the Gangnam Severance Hospital four days ago, and today, she finally woke up.
“You can go ahead. I’ll call you when I’m leaving.”
Yoo Yeonha got off the limousine with nervousness in her heart.
“Ah, it’s Yeonha!”
In front of the VIP hospital’s entrance were Kim Suho, Shin Jonghak, and Yi Yeonghan.
“You’re here, Yeonha.”
Yoo Yeonha smiled at Shin Jonghak.
“You were waiting for me?”
“…Then why are you standing here?”
“…Whatever, let’s go in.”
Yoo Yeonha went into the hospital with the others.
After walking past the VIP hospital’s beautifully cultivated garden, she reached Chae Nayun’s room.
The four of them drew in a deep breath.
“You can go in. She’s fine.”
Encouraged by a nurse’s soft voice, Kim Suho turned the doorknob.
The door slowly opened.
First, they were greeted with a soft breeze from the opened window in the room. Chae Nayun was standing in front of the window, looking out silently.
Kim Suho and the others hesitated a bit before going in, but Chae Nayun didn’t pay attention to them whatsoever.
“Nayun, your friends are here.”
Chae Shinhyuk, who was already in the room, spoke. It was only then that Chae Nayun turned around.
Chae Nayun slowly approached the group. Yoo Yeonha felt her heart beat. She couldn’t look straight into Chae Nayun’s eyes.
“I heard I slept for a week.”
However, she laughed like usual as though nothing happened.
Yoo Yeonha worked up the courage to speak.
“Are you feeling okay?”
Kim Suho asked.
“Yeah, I wouldn’t be standing otherwise.”
Chae Nayun even stretched to show that she was fine. Shin Jonghak gave her a warm smile.
“I wouldn’t expect anything less from you.”
“Kim Suho, Shin Jonghak, do you guys have time today?”
“I do, but….”
Chae Nayun spoke to Kim Suho and Shin Jonghak.
“Help me train. I slept for a whole week, so I need to regain my dulled senses.”
“Shouldn’t you rest for today?”
“No, I don’t have the time.”
Chae Nayun smiled and muttered.
“There’s someone I want to kill, so I have to work hard.”
She sounded indifferent, yet resolute and full of hatred.
When Yoo Yeonha heard her, her heart sank.
Kim Suho asked in surprise.
“So? Are you going to help me or not? If you’re not available, I’ll just train with Shin Jonghak.”
“Um, what about me, Yi Yeonghan? I’m here too, you know.”
“…I can help you train, but I don’t think you should… kill someone.”
“Shut it and follow me out. Oh, Yeonha, are you coming too?”
Yoo Yeonha shook her head. Unable to maintain her composure in this situation, she left the room first. She could hear Chae Nayun’s voice behind her. However, she couldn’t distinguish her words.
I opened my eyes and stared at the ceiling blankly. It was the white color I painted.
I felt comfortable on the alligator skin couch I made.
The boundary between reality and dream was faint, but what woke me up was the sharp pain on my upper arm.
I couldn’t move my arm. The aftereffect was much worse than when I got the third streak of Stigma.
Did Stigma put more burden on my body as it grew in capacity?
Unable to move, I sighed.
“Haa… I have to go home.”
Evandel was waiting for me. Though, she seemed too busy lately playing with her friend to pay attention to me. She might even be happy that I wasn’t there to nag her.
Feeling wronged, I clenched my teeth and forced myself up. My eyelids trembled from the intense pain that followed my movement.
At that moment, a voice rang out. It wasn’t Boss’. This heavy and deep voice… was Khalifa’s.
“Do you remember my name?”
“Of course, Khalifa-ssi.”
I figured out how to address each member on the first day.
“Um, how long was I asleep?”
“At least 24 hours.”
Khalifa tapped on the ground with the back of his foot. A pathway of magic power spread out from that point.
It was a Portal.
“Boss asked me to stay, since you wouldn’t be able to go back without me.”
“Ah… thank you.”
“You don’t need to thank me. But…”
Khalifa paused for a moment and looked around the cave that looked significantly different than five days ago.
“…I’d like to be next.”
He was likely talking about the next color’s room.
“Of course, I don’t intend to take it for free.”
Khalifa threw something the size of a baseball.
“It’s a blue rockstone. It looks like you love making things. You can use that as a material.”
Blue rockstone, a gem containing magic power. As it was quite an expensive item, I received it gladly and put it away.
“Then I’ll make your room next.”
“Thanks. So, what do you think about the mission?”
Four days ago, Boss made an announcement in front of all members. That she would annihilate past traitors who scorned and ridiculed the Chameleon Troupe when they were down.
She called the operation ‘Old Revenge’.
Although most of our targets were Djinns from Pandemonium, there were some Heroes and businessmen too.
“So, are you confident?”
I looked at the Stigma on my upper arm.
A circle was now surrounding a cross.
Using Khalifa’s Portal, I returned to Seoul and quickly ran home where Evandel was waiting.
I pressed the password. Immediately, tiny footsteps rang out, and by the time the door was half-opened, Evandel and Hayang were right in front of the door.
“Sorry, I’m late.”
I picked them both up. They didn’t blame me for not coming home every once in a while, but I still felt like I had to apologize. When I went to the living room, I found someone else there.
Evandel’s friend, Yun Haeyeon, was here.
Judging by all the Lego pieces lying on the ground, it seemed they were playing together.
I put Evandel and Hayang down, then patted Haeyeon’s head.
“Hajin Hajin, where were you?”
“Hm? Oh, I just had something to do. Anyways, did you eat dinner?”
“Un~ we ordered food.”
“Chicken again? Good job. Ah, hold on a second.”
There was something I had to check.
When I got my fourth streak of Stigma, I remembered being alerted about a laptop update.
…(Currently in progress) Remaining time: 3y 13d…
What? It’s still not over? And what’s 3y 13d? Don’t tell me it’s 3 years and 13 days!?
Suddenly, the doorbell rang.
I turned around and shouted.
“Who is it?”
—Ah, I’m Haeyeon’s aunt… I heard she was here, so I came to pick her up.
“Ah, no… I want to stay and play more…”
Haeyeon reacted cutely at the voice outside.
Haeyeon hid behind Evandel and Evandel announced ‘I’ll protect you’ seriously.
“Ah, yes, hold on.”
I opened the door without much thought.
I couldn’t help but doubt my eyes.
In front of door was… Yun Seung-Ah.
Under the dark 9 p.m. sky, I came to a nearby park with Yun Seung-Ah. As expected of a rich neighborhood, there were all sorts of recreational equipment. However, Yun Seung-Ah and I went straight to the swings as though we almost promised to sit and talk there.
Neither of us said much.
Since we knew each other and Haeyeon wanted to play more, we came out to give them more time, but there wasn’t much to talk about.
After riding the swing for about five minutes, I started the conversation.
“…Kuhum, I didn’t know vice-leader had a niece.”
“I also didn’t think Cadet Hajin had a… um, she’s not your daughter, right?”
“Of course not. She’s my… niece. Also, you don’t have to talk so politely.”
Yun Seung-Ah didn’t ask any further. Because of everything that happened recently, she seemed exhausted and weak.
“Do you live here? I never knew.”
“Me? No, I used to have a mansion elsewhere, but I sold it. I’m living with my older brother right now.”
I ended up poking her where it hurt. The reason she sold her mansion had to be to pay off the class action lawsuit among other things.
“Rather than that, I didn’t know you lived in such a nice place, Hajin.”
“I do stock trading on the side. I made a lot of money with it.”
“I see. I wouldn’t expect any less from someone ranked 1st in theory.”
That was the end of our first conversation.
Yun Seung-Ah looked up at the crescent moon in the sky and fell silent. I didn’t say anything either. It was just too awkward.
Should I have just let her leave with Haeyeon?
“…Cube’s cadets. Are they disappointed?”
Yun Seung-Ah muttered.
“Disappointed? No, not really—”
“I’m thinking of dropping everything and going to the Association.”
“…The Hero Association?”
“Yeah. The Temple of Justice apparently has an empty seat.”
Temple of Justice.
Even among Hero Association’s numerous departments, the Temple of Justice was the strongest. They were similar to the United Stations’ Peacekeeping Corps. Well, no, I guess they weren’t that similar. After all, the Temple of Justice only had 13 members.
“Aileen-ssi is also in that group, right?”
Yun Seung-Ah snickered.
“You didn’t care much about me, but it seems that’s not the case with Aileen Unni.”
“…She’s the human dragon. I’d be an idiot if I didn’t know her.”
Aileen, the Hero who uses Spirit Speech.
She was one of the most overpowered Heroes I wrote about.
“Heh, she’s too small to be a dragon. Her official height is 153 cm, but she’s actually shorter.”
“I’m not kidding, she’s tiny. If you look down, all you’ll see is her head. Ah, but don’t do that. She gets mad when you look down at her head, even though that’s not something you can control… ehew.”
Yun Seung-Ah mumbled randomly, then suddenly became sad and dropped her head.
It seemed she had depression like me. Maybe I should tell her to also smoke like me.
“…Sorry, I shouldn’t have said that. It’s just that I haven’t talked to anyone for a while.”
“No, it’s fine.”
Although the public and the media were talking about Cube’s Djinns invasion incident, the amount of attention Creator’s Sacred Grace received before that was astronomical. Yoo Yeonha surely had something to do with it too, as she was merciless when it came to exploiting her opponent’s weakness.
“Why don’t you try aiming for the guild leader position?”
“I mean, it’s not your fault that you guys failed the Tower campaign. It was the guild leader’s fault for pushing for the campaign. I think this is the best opportunity.”
I tried bringing up this topic. Yun Seung-Ah should be voting to fire the guild leader in the board meeting soon.
“…You think like a kid.”
“Because I am a kid.”
“I guess you are. Well, I’ll think about it.”
“Sure. To be honest, Creator’s Sacred Grace doesn’t feel right without Yun Seung-Ah.”
I grinned and got up.
“Pft, yeah, I think so too. Are you leaving?”
“Yep. Oh right, Haeyeon said she wanted to sleep over. What should we do?”
“…It’s fine. I’ll tell Oppa about it.”
“Got it. Good night, vice-leader… Oh, also…”
Suddenly remembering something, I turned towards Yun Seung-Ah.
“Suho is waiting for you to call him.”
Yun Seung-Ah’s face immediately lit up.
“H-Hm? W-What are you talking about?”
“You don’t have to feign ignorance. All of our close friends know about it anyways.”
“A-About what? I’m too old compared to Suho…”
Although Yun Seung-Ah was 9~10 years older than Suho on paper, that wasn’t really the case. Suho was actually 3~4 years older than his official age.
“Don’t worry, he’s into older women.”
“Yep, only older women.”
“Only… ah, no, I keep telling you, that’s not it!”
I grinned seeing Yun Seung-Ah’s girlish side.
“Ah, Hajin-ssi! It’s really not like that! D-Don’t you spread that rumor!”
I ignored the shouting behind my back.
…10 days quickly went by and the Chameleon Troupe’s mission day arrived.
Currently, I was standing on the outskirts of Pandemonium for my first mission as a member of the Chameleon Troupe.
—Can you see that tower in the distance, Hyung?
Droon’s voice rang out in my ears.
I took a look around and discovered a tall clocktower. It was easily 200 meters tall, but I headed towards it without hesitation.
With Parkour, 30 seconds was enough for me to reach its peak.
I stood on the support fixture and looked into the distance from a lofty height. My clothes fluttered in the breeze mixed with demonic energy and blood.
Pandemonium, a city governed by Djinns, had many buildings and people.
“Yeah, I see it.”
My target was particularly eye-catching even in the bustling city.
—yep, that’s the one.
A 10-floor tower with a sleek design. The giant obsidian on its rooftop made it look like a Magic Tower. This building was ‘their’ base.
—That building apparently took 50 billion won to make. Let’s crush it! Crush, crush!
Today’s target was one of Pandemonium’s private organizations, ‘Hatred’s End’. To be more precise, it was to destroy the new base they completed.
—By the way, your clothes are cool, Hyung.
—Did you put in special care for your first mission?
I was wearing clothes I made. It’s not that I designed it with special care, it was just that anything I made turned pretty or cool because of Aether.
The cape I created to conceal myself became the ‘Assassin’s Hooded Cape’, which looked like a main character’s equipment, and the mask I created to cover my face was given a chrome decoration and became the ‘Mastermind’s Mask’.
—It must be because of all the black color. Can you make me something similar later?
Droon was quite talkative.
But since he was a kid, I forgave him.
…It definitely wasn’t because I was afraid of him.
—Hyung, Hyung, will you be fine? That tower should be really sturdy.
“I don’t have much choice. I’m the only one here.”
—You don’t have to do it alone.
Blessed Bow of Horus, magic amplification medicinal effect, Master Sharpshooter, Random Consolidation System, and finally, four streaks of Stigma.
A small smile emerged on my face.
With all these, blowing up a tower should be a piece of cake.
“No, I think I can do it.”
—Ooh~ are you going to use a bow?
I couldn’t use guns in Chameleon Troupe’s missions. The entire world knew that I was the only gun-using Hero.
That was why I brought a bow.
—Okay, when you succeed, I’ll leave the mark.
—Yep. The mark of a new Black.
“…Do you have to?”
—Of course. We’re attacking as a warning, to tell them we’re back.
I took a deep breath.
Murmuring softly, I pulled out the bow hanging on my back. Its wooden frame clacked enjoyably.
Aether adhered to Horus’ Bow and strengthened it.
I held the bow in one hand and concentrated Stigma’s magic power with the other…
—Take this! Invisible Sword!
“…Don’t say weird things.”
—Ah, I forgot to turn off the radio. Sorry, Hyung.
I reset my focus, willing Stigma to transform.
Just in case, I only used 3.6 streaks of Stigma.
Stigma’s magic power danced and compressed down to an arrow, forming what looked more like a javelin than anything else. I added an ‘external magic power amplification’ medicinal effect on top of this arrow.
Radiating with black light, the arrow was shining destructively.
I nocked the arrow.
Wasn’t he supposed to turn off the radio?
I counted down.
The arrow shot through the sky, drawing a beautiful, straight line.
Without even a bit of error or shaking, it hurled towards its target which was at least 1.5 km away.
However, the arrow reached its target in the blink of an eye.
The moment my arrow touched the tower, a huge explosion erupted. A fierce gale blew, sucking in air from all directions. Next, a thunderous sound roared out.
It took only a second for total destruction.
Where their tower proudly stood was now covered in dust. Soon, I could see pieces of the obsidian raining down.
“…Is that good enough?”
—Wow~ it’s perfect, Hyung.
“Then I’m leaving.”
I turned around without hesitation.
Hearing Droon’s praise, I put my hand in my pocket.
Although my arm was throbbing from draining Stigma’s magic power, I endured the pain and took out a cigarette.
Putting it in my mouth, I lit it with Stigma. It tasted bitter.