Chapter 147. 3 Years (1)


“Auu.”

Thud.
I sat down on the chair I made. I was drenched with sweat, and my fingers were numb from firing too many arrows.

“Hm? Are you tired already?”

I was in Chameleon Troupe’s training room, which was only 10% finished.
From about 300 meters away, Boss’ voice rang out. Looking at her, I grinned.

“…No, not yet.”

Boss was currently helping me train.
Well, it was more accurate to say she was helping me ‘grind’. I was grinding to raise Master Sharpshooter’s grade, which was still stuck at grade-5. Trying to raise a growth-type Gift’s grade was hell itself.

“But you look tired.”

“I just have to change my weapon.”

I put my bow and quiver down.
Strength was much more important than speed and dexterity when it came to using a bow. To shoot an arrow far away with accuracy, a fair amount of strength was required.

“To a gun?”

“Yes.”

However, a gun wasn’t a bow. As I always say, guns were the best in that all I had to do was pull the trigger.
I took out my gun from Stigma and transformed it into its assault rifle mode.

“Try to dodge it if you can.”

“Sounds fun.”

Boss stretched leisurely.
As I prepared the magazines, I checked my proficiency EXP.

[Master Sharpshooter – proficiency EXP: 90%]

I was only 10% away from leveling up. In a few weeks, I should be able to get to grade-4, especially with Boss being my practice target.

“I’m starting.”

“Okay.”

Seeing Boss laugh, I pulled the trigger.
Blue magic power shot out of my gun.
The time it took me to empty the 45-round clip couldn’t be more than a second.
All bullets simultaneously shot out, hurling towards one target.

I couldn’t predict Boss’ movements. As such, I fired at places that had the highest chance to hit her.
However, Boss was quicker than the bullets. Her body weaved through the bullets like wind.
I continued to fire up to 400 bullets, but only four managed to graze her clothes.

“Haha, well done.”

Boss was still satisfied with my performance as she praised me with a hearty laugh.
I sat back down on the chair. Although pulling the trigger wasn’t difficult, I was dizzy from using Bullet Time as well.

“I’ll rest for a bit.”

“We should stop here for today.”

“…No, I’m almost at grade 4.”

“I don’t have time.”

“Ah, yes.”

I nodded and checked my smartwatch.
There were many messages I had yet to reply to.

[It’s been a month since summer break started ^_^ Oh right, I met the elementalist, Shin Yeohwa-nim. You’ve heard of her too, right? She said she would take me in as her disciple!]
[Come visit England later~]
[Hajin-ssi?]

These were messages Rachel sent a week ago.

[Kim Hajin, I’m going to Baekdu Mountain, so you won’t be able to get in touch with me during summer break.]

And this was from Kim Suho.
I didn’t reply to any of them.
I was afraid.
I didn’t know if I would have to become their enemies one day.

“…Huu.”

Frustrated, I took out a cigarette.
Tzzz.
Since I used up Stigma’s magic power, I lit it with a lighter.
Boss, who was looking at me with interest, asked.

“Why do you keep smoking?”

“…Pardon?”

“That. Cigarette.”

“Uh… am I the only member who smokes?”

Boss nodded.
It made sense. They probably enjoyed drinking more than smoking.

“But there was one person who used to smoke.”

“Oh?”

I tilted my head.

‘Used to smoke.’

In truth, I didn’t know much about the Chameleon Troupe. Because I only listed out their members, I didn’t know their history.

“Is he a previous member?”

“Yeah, he said it was a habit from before he got strong.”

“Ah, it’s the same for me.”

I went with the explanation Boss gave. Boss then looked at me for a moment and murmured softly.
—You sure have many similarities.
Then, she let out a deep sigh.

“Pardon?”

“Nothing. I’m going back to my mansion now.”

“Ah, yes, take care. …Oh right, Boss.”

Suddenly remembering the furniture I made yesterday, I held Boss back.

“What is it?”

“I put a bed in your room.”

“…I don’t need it. I’m not fond of beds.”

However, Boss firmly declined and left the training room.

Koong—

The door shut heavily.

“Hm, let’s see…”

I peered through the closed door.
Boss was heading to the Portal, but she slowed down little by little until she stopped in front of the Portal. After glancing back at the training room’s door, she stealthily changed course.
Her destination was a room signed Boss’ Room.
Boss made it look like she went inside the Portal, then…
Shashashak—
She entered her room and jumped on her bed.
With a satisfied expression, she rolled around on the soft bedsheet.

“Pft.”

I canceled the Thousand-Mile Eyes’ vision. Then, I turned on my smartwatch to see what was happening around the world.

===
[Trending]
1. Kim Hwanho.
2. Yi Hyojin.
3. Yun Seung-Ah.
===

“…Yun Seung-Ah?”

A name caught my attention.

[Yun Seung-Ah appointed as the guild leader of Creator’s Sacred Grace. “I will give my all for the benefit of the guild and the world”.]

“Mm.”

As expected of Yun Seung-Ah, she chose to charge through the obstacle directly.
I read the article about her appointment with a smile.

**


…2026, August 21st.
Even at night, Baekdu Mountain’s sky was lit up with numerous stars.
At the same time, tens of thousands of magic spheres were lighting up the surroundings like fireflies.

“Auu, that felt great….”

In this picturesque scenery, Kim Suho walked outside after taking a bath. Although he looked at his wrist out of habit, smartwatches didn’t function in this place. Kim Suho smacked his lips and headed back to his room.

“…?”

But suddenly, a strange odor came down on his head.
Followed by an acrid, grey smoke.
Kim Suho slowly raised his head.

“…Huh?”

On the balcony of the girls’ lodging, he saw a girl smoking a cigarette. She was looking up at the sky with melancholic eyes while letting out puffs of smoke.
The girl was Chae Nayun.
Caught off guard by this unexpected sight, Kim Suho only stared at her in a daze. Then, while Chae Nayun was flicking the ashes off her cigarette, their eyes met.

“What are you doing here, Kim Suho?”

“Me? Uh, well… anyways, since when have you been smoking?”

“Ah? …You don’t need to know that.”

“…It’s not good for you. It doesn’t look good either.”

“I only smoke three a day anyways.”

“Then why don’t you just quit?”

Suddenly, Chae Nayun frowned.

“Shut up if you don’t know anything.”

“What? Is that something you should say to a caring friend?”

“Shut up. I’m angry that you beat me up today too.”

“….”

Kim Suho scratched his head. In today’s duel, Kim Suho thoroughly crushed Chae Nayun. He thought that would be better for her.

“Just how the hell am I supposed to beat you… huu.”

With a deep sigh, Chae Nayun put her cigarette out and threw it into a portable ashtray. ‘At least she doesn’t litter’. Kim Suho smirked.
But then Chae Nayun frowned and shot back.

“Hey.”

“What?”

“Fight me tomorrow too.”

“Sure.”

“Don’t go easy either.”

“Of course.”

Seemingly satisfied, Chae Nayun smiled.

“Then I’m heading back.”

“Yeah, good night.”

“Yeah.”

She waved her hand and walked back into her room.
But even after she left, Kim Suho remained standing in the same spot.

“…Ehew.”

Eventually, he let out a deep sigh. Feeling frustrated, he looked up at the sky. Baekdu Mountain’s sky was full of stars.

“They must have broken up for real….”

That was Kim Suho’s best guess.

**


…2026, December 17th.
Time flew by, and the final day of Cube’s second year arrived.
All cadets were gathered at the auditorium for the closing ceremony.
In Cube, the second year was the last year in which cadets received training. Starting from March, once their rankings were finalized today, they would be participating in real-life field training.

“Whew, I made it into the top 10.”

Yoo Yeonha let out a sigh of relief. She had already received her ranking, which would soon be announced with the rest of the cadets’ rankings.

“…Huaa~”

Now, she no longer had anything to worry about.
Stretching her arms, she glanced at the seat next to her.
Beep, beep—
Chae Nayun was busy playing a mobile game. Since it looked like she wasn’t interested in talking to anyone, Yoo Yeonha strained her ears to eavesdrop on other nearby cadets.

“Ah, I’m so jealous. You’re going to Desolate Moon?”

“Yep, I’m going to work my ass off.”

Field training was structured as such.
First, guilds from across the world would select up to 10 cadets (excluding magician cadets). Then, cadets would choose one from the guilds that selected them. This field training would continue for six months, giving cadets a chance to be in two guilds.
After a year, the Hero Association would appoint them as Heroes, and cadets would go on to become official Heroes in guilds or other groups.

“…Jiyoon, didn’t Essence of the Strait contact you?”

Yoo Yeonha’s ears perked up.
With Creator’s Sacred Grace falling, Essence of the Strait was the unrivaled… well, perhaps not yet. Essence of the Strait was still vying for the first place along with ‘Desolate Moon’ and ‘Cradle of Glory’.

“Yeah, I’m glad. Essence of the Strait was always my first choice.”

“Oh right, I heard Kim Suho is going to Creator’s Sacred Grace.”

“…Tsk.”

Hearing this, Yoo Yeonha suddenly felt displeased.
Kim Suho chose to go to Creator’s Sacred Grace. It was likely because of his relationship with their guild leader, Yun Seung-Ah. However, Yoo Yeonha wasn’t too upset. Although Kim Suho was certainly desirable, he was also a tiring person as well.

“Oh right, why did you choose Essence of the Strait?”

Yoo Yeonha turned around and looked at the girl sitting next to her, Rachel.

“Yes?”

“Why didn’t you choose the English Royal Court guild?”

“Oh, it’s to learn. Guilds in Korea are more advanced, so I’m hoping to learn a thing or two for the English Royal Court guild to adopt.”

Rachel gave a simple explanation.

“I see. Well, there is a lot to learn from our guild.”

Although Rachel was saying she wouldn’t stick around after graduation, Yoo Yeonha no longer minded it too much. In a way, she was a lot more generous than she was freshman year.
At that moment, a deep voice rang out from the speaker.

—Kuhum. We will now announce the final rankings and commence the closing ceremony.

Every cadet faced the stage.
On a huge projector screen, the rankings of cadets popped up.

===
[Rank 1. Kim Suho]
[Rank 2. Shin Jonghak]
[Rank 3. Rachel]
[Rank 4. Chae Nayun]
[Rank 5. Yohei]
[Rank 6. Shen Yu’an]
[Rank 7. Yoo Yeonha]
[Rank 8. Yi Yeonghan]

[Rank 13. Yi Jiyoon]
[Rank 14. Kim Horak]

[Rank 33. Hazuki]
[Rank 48. Jin Hoseung]


===

“…God dammit, I’m rank 4 again because of theory.”

Chae Nayun immediately grumbled.
Although Rachel was a rank above her, Chae Nayun showed tremendous growth in the second semester. Looking only at combat training results, she rivaled Kim Suho.
Yoo Yeonha stared at Chae Nayun and carefully asked.

“…Nayun, I heard you’re going to Baekdu Mountain again.”

“Huh? Oh, yeah, sorry. I won’t be going to Essence of the Strait.”

Chae Nayun decided to go to Baekdu Mountain rather than participating in the practical field training. A special exception had been made thanks to Yoo Sihyuk’s recommendation letter.

“Don’t overwork yourself.”

“I won’t. Once I go, I won’t come down for 2, maybe 3 years. So save me a seat.”

“…You’re coming to our guild?”

“Yep.”

Yoo Yeonha should be happy, but she couldn’t smile. It was because she thought of that person every time she looked at Chae Nayun and because the truth about Chae Jinyoon tormented her.

“…Okay.”

That’s all Yoo Yeonha said.

**


…2027, March 1st.
It was the day Cube’s third-year students were going to work under the title of Apprentice Hero.
Yoo Yeonha stood in front of Essence of the Strait’s guild building with Rachel, Yi Jiyoon, Yohei, Hazuki, and Rose. Yoo Yeonha was proud of Essence of the Strait’s guild building, which had gotten a lot fancier than it was only two years ago.

“Young Miss, Essence of the Strait only chose us five?”

Yohei kept asking stupid questions. Yoo Yeonha frowned and glared at him.

“There are three magicians too. Rather than that, stop calling me Young Miss.”

“Haha, I apologize.”

“…Tsk. Let’s go in first.”

Yoo Yeonha entered the building with everyone else.

“Oh~ welcome~”

The person who greeted them at the lobby was Essence of the Strait’s new vice-leader, Yi Jin-Ah. Yoo Yeonha gave her a big smile, to which Yi Jin-Ah returned the same.

“I’m sure you all know me. I also looked at your profiles and specs, so let's skip over the introduction. Since it’s the first day, I’ll give you a tour around the guild. Follow me.”

Yi Jin-Ah walked to the elevator with the apprentice heroes following her like ducklings.

[Lounge]

They first stopped at the second-floor lounge.
There were 30 of the most recent virtual reality gaming capsules, 50 supercomputers, and over 100 tablets containing tens of thousands of books, and all sorts of training equipment and sports equipment.
Yi Jin-Ah proudly opened the door to this world-class lounge.

“This is the lounge we’re proud of… erm, why are there so many people here?”

However, there were more people inside than usual.
At least 50 people were crowded around a single computer monitor.

“Hey! It’s working hours, you know…”

“Ah, vice-leader! Come here, a new mercenary joined Jeronimo.”

“Jeronimo? Really?”

Yi Jin-Ah’s eyes widened, and she quickly joined the crowd. Jeronimo was a mercenary guild that even top-ranking guilds had interest in.

“…Mm.”

“…What do we do?”

Having lost their guardian, the apprentices exchanged worried glances and stealthily walked closer towards Yoo Yeonha.

“…Ehew.”

Yoo Yeonha led the ducklings to Yi Jin-Ah. Then, she looked at the monitor with everyone else.

===
[Jeronimo’s New Mercenary]
—Are you troubled by a large number of monsters? Then call this mercenary. With satisfactory speed and assertive power, he will slaughter the monsters.
Code name – Fenrir.
He is a wolf that devours monsters.
===

“Fenrir? Is this the Fenrir that I know?”

“I think so. But vice-leader, why can’t we see anything more even with our guild IP?”

“Huh? Oh, that’s because we aren’t partnered. If you want to see the extended introduction, pay for it yourself.”

“You know that costs 100 million won.”

Jeronimo’s special website required money for even the tiniest information.
Without a membership, one couldn’t even access the website, and Jeronimo’s membership wasn’t something one could buy with just money. And even with a membership, one had to pay money to individual mercenaries to view their information.
Although Essence of the Strait purchased a membership, because they didn’t purchase the ‘individual information listing’, they couldn’t view detailed information on Jeronimo’s members without paying for it.

“Hmm.”

Yoo Yeonha sneaked away to the back of the crowd and turned on her smartwatch.
After accessing Jeronimo’s website and quickly paying 100 million won, she opened the cinematic trailer showing the new mercenary’s specialty and strong points.

“…Eh?”

What was shown on the video was a beautiful and artistic rain of bullets.
As she had seen it before, Yoo Yeonha’s eyes widened.
At that moment, she received a message.

[Hit me up if you want to employ me.]

It was from Kim Hajin.

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