Chapter 148. 3 Years (2)


The introductory cinematic trailer was conceptually simple.
With imposing music in the background, a desolate wasteland appeared on screen.
Tap, tap.
Soon, clear footsteps rang out, and a man stood on top of a desert hill. Although his face was covered, his jet-black armor and cigarette left a powerful impression.
Next, the man spat out his cigarette and held up an assault rifle.
The camera angle then changed, showing several hundred monsters of all ranks and types rushing towards him.

Click—

A magazine clicked into the assault rifle, and the man aimed his gun forward.
From the horizon, hundreds of monsters were running towards him like a tidal wave.
However, the man faced them with a single gun.

Tudududu—

Light flashed from the assault rifle.
The bullets he fired took a mysterious course. Almost as if they were alive, they curved in all directions despite being fired in a straight line.
The man fired mercilessly. Metallic sound rang out from all the bullet casings hitting the ground, yet the man took not even a second to empty a clip and reload. The thunderous gunshot sounds never ceased.

Tudududu—

Leaving behind white trails of light, hundreds of bullets shot forward like shooting stars. This barrage of bullets completely decimated the fierce tidal wave of roaring monsters.

…Soon, the desert turned silent.
The video ended with the man sighing and looking at the camera. Shown behind him were corpses of monsters stacked up like a mountain.

“….”

Seeing the powerful ending of the video, Yoo Yeonha got goosebumps on her skin. As expected of the world’s greatest mercenary group, their marketing tactic was just as spectacular.
…Of course, she had to admit that it was cringy.
But when it came to PR videos, being cringy was better than lacking.

[I just saw the cinematic trailer. My fingers and toes are curled in.]

Although the man’s face was completely covered, Yoo Yeonha could tell that he was Kim Hajin.
Kim Hajin quickly replied to the message she sent.

[ ㅋㅋI just did what I was told. By the way, that’s not scripted. We actually went to Africa to take it.]

[Africa?]

[Yep.]

More than half of Africa was dominated by monsters.
Although Northern Saharan countries like Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt were still under humanity’s control, Southern and sub-Saharan Africa were ‘human extinction zones’.
The lands there belonged to monsters with only the law of the jungle prevailing.

[Was it Northern or Southern Sahara Desert?]

[Northern, obviously. Monsters in the South are all strong.]

[I guess you’re right. Ah, have you met the Monster King?]

Yoo Yeonha asked jokingly.
All sorts of monstrous tales came from Southern and sub-Saharan Africa. The most famous tale was the existence of a [Monster King].
According to this tale, there existed a Monster King with an intelligence rivaling that of a humans’ with subordinates of equally capable intelligence. Supposedly, they would gather up Africa’s monsters and attack humanity.

[No, but you’ll be able to see the Monster King yourself in ten years.]
[But how did you know about the Monster King?]

“Pft.”

Yoo Yeonha laughed. Kim Hajin sounded serious, but he had to be kidding, right?
She changed the subject without much thought.

[Oh right, thank you for the ginseng you sent recently.]

[Sent? You mean sold.]

[It’s the same thing. Thanks to you, we’re almost ready to announce our new potion. It’ll be Essential Pharmacy's official debut item. I’m sure it will turn the field upside down.]

[Congrats, that means the stocks I have will go up. Oh right, call me when you’re doing testing for that potion. I’ll do it for free.]

[Hm? No, it’s fine…]

When Yoo Yeonha was texting excitedly to the point that other apprentices were starting to get suspicious, Yi Jin-Ah came back.

“Ah, sorry, I got distracted for a moment.”

With that, she made a bitter smile.
Yoo Yeonha wrapped up her conversation with Kim Hajin and turned her smartwatch off.

“So uh… where were we? Oh yeah, guys! Say hi to our new apprentices.”

Yi Jin-Ah turned around and yelled at the Heroes staring at the computer.

“Oh~? They’re pretty cute. Good luck, kids.”

“Hit us up if you need any help.”

“You know that we’re rank 1, right? You have to work hard if you want to survive here~”

They each sent encouraging words to the apprentices.
Of course, they didn’t forget to bow secretly when they met Yoo Yeonha’s eyes.

“Alright, let’s leave. It looks like the lounge is going to be packed today. Let’s see… ah, let’s go to my office.”

Yi Jin-Ah led the apprentices out.

**


On the other hand, Kim Suho and Yi Yeonghan were standing in front of Creator’s Sacred Grace’s entrance.
Whish—
Cold wind sent dry leaves blowing across the entrance.

“You should really treat me well.”

Yi Yeonghan spoke as he nudged Kim Suho.
Justifiably, Kim Suho and Yi Yeonghan were the only cadets who chose Creator’s Sacred Grace. If it wasn’t for Kim Suho persuading him, Yi Yeonghan would have chosen Essence of the Strait too.

“When did I ever not treat you well? You got rank 8 all thanks to me. Because I helped you train.”

“Oh please, you ran away to Baekdu Mountain for summer break.”

“…Still.”

At one point, Creator’s Sacred Grace had fallen all the way down to rank 20. Now, with the new leader Yun Seung-Ah’s reformations and successful Dungeon campaigns, they had climbed back up to rank 13.

Even so, cadets didn’t choose Creator’s Sacred Grace. Although Creator’s Sacred Grace threw away their pride and selected cadets under rank 100, none of the cadets chose them.
In a way, cadets couldn’t be blamed. There was simply no reason for them to choose Creator’s Sacred Grace, which was still under the scrutiny of the public, while there were fancier, more stable choices.

“Let’s go in.”

“Ah~ my future is going to be ruined because of you.”

“Oh please, what matters is what kind of a Hero you become. Is it really important what guild you’re in?”

“Of course it is, you bastard…”

While Kim Suho and Yi Yeonghan were arguing…

“Kim Suho-ssi, Yi Yeonghan-ssi.”

A soft voice shook their ears.
They immediately stopped arguing and turned around.
There, they saw the guild leader Yun Seung-Ah.

“Thank you for choosing Creator’s Sacred Grace.”

Even with her status as the guild leader, she had come out to greet apprentice heroes.
Ssss—
At that moment, a gentle breeze softly blew. Yun Seung-Ah’s long hair fluttered in the air, a sweet scent spread out, and a blooming smile emerged on her face.
The two men found themselves frozen by her blinding beauty.

“…To think the guild leader would come out to greet us. This is quite nice.”

After murmuring quietly, Yi Yeonghan ran up to Yun Seung-Ah.

“Guild leader Yun Seung-Ah~! I’m a big fan of yours—!”

**


…2027, August 10th.
Chameleon Troupe’s hideout remodeling was 30% done.
After finishing today’s workload, I came out to the lobby, wiping my sweat.

“Oh, Newbie, what did you make today?”

This friendly voice belonged to the Seat of Turquoise, Setryn.
Seeing her smiling at me, I retorted with a smile.

“Who knows?”

After more than a year of remodeling, the hideout became fancier and fancier, and after hearing the news, Chameleon Troupe’s members often came by to hang out.

“Anything interesting?”

“No, I wouldn’t say interesting.”

Currently, only Boss, Khalifa, Jain, and Setryn’s rooms were finished. But other than individual rooms, I also made a workshop, a training room (work in progress), a gaming room, and a bathroom.

For the individual rooms, I received sufficient payment from each member. Khalifa gave me a blue rockstone, Jain gave me a bracelet for improving energy circulation, and Setryn gave me a medicine that improved… stamina, let’s say.

“I’m working on a hot spring.”

“Hot spring?”

Setryn shot up with an excited smile.

“How did you know I love hot springs?”

Although I didn’t plan on making one, I found an underground water reservoir, so I changed my plan.

“Um, it’s not ready yet. It won’t be finished for at least a week.”

“Is it mixed bathing?”

She licked her lips, which was a rather seductive habit of hers.
I shook my head.

“No, it’s separated.”

“…But we can still go in the same bath, right?”

Kiik—

Suddenly, the door to the biggest room in the cave opened and Boss came out. She seemed to have just woken up as she looked drowsy.

“Boss is up. I’ll leave then. Tell me when the hot spring is done~”

Setryn smiled and returned to the room.

“Haam.”

Boss rubbed her eyes and trudged up to the couch before lying down with disheveled hair. For the record, she was wearing black, silk pajamas.
No one asked her to wear pajamas, and no one gifted them to her either.
But perhaps about two months ago, Boss came back with those pajamas in her hands. When I asked about them, she called them ‘precious items for wonderful sleep’ with a pleased face.

“What happened to only needing 5 hours of sleep per week?”

“….”

Boss suddenly raised her head and looked at me.

“Was that directed at me?”

“No.”

“I see… huaam.”

Then, she yawned and buried herself in the couch.
As demonstrated, Boss was obsessed with my furniture. I couldn’t blame her as the furniture I made were far better than I initially anticipated.

===
[Boss’ Bed] [Superior grade] [Contains 3% magic power]
—Allure of Magic Power
*While resting in this bed, both mental and physical exhaustion will be washed away.
*Waking up in the morning on this bed will increase your perseverance by 0.3 point.
—Artistic Design
*This bed’s beauty will make you want to lie down.

「Creator: Kim Hajin」
===

With Dexterity growing by the day, I was now able to make furniture containing magic power.
In a way, it was to be expected.
Since I transformed Stigma’s magic power into tools and refined magic power itself into furniture, it was only natural that they contain magic power.
The result was that the furniture I made were masterpieces.
Look at those brilliant effects!
Sleeping in that bed for just a day would wash a week’s worth of exhaustion clean!

But what was more important was the final line, [Creator: Kim Hajin].
This meant that the world had acknowledged my furniture making skills. If I continued to make good items, my name itself would get items to receive beneficial effects.
Though of course, there was the caveat that I would have to work hard for at least three years.

“Newbie.”

Boss called me with her eyes still closed.

“Yes?”

“My hair is itchy.”

She was clearly expressing her desire to have her hair combed.

“…You should wait until you wash your hair first—”

“It’s itchy.”

Boss bobbed her head up and down.

“It’s itchy, it’s itchy.”

Seeing me still hesitating, she began to throw a tantrum, bouncing up and down on the couch.

“It’s itchy~”

“…Alright.”

I walked up and began to comb her hair.
Boss’ hair was cleaner than I expected. If it wasn’t for the fact that I just saw her, I wouldn’t believe that she just woke up.

“Hm? You’re combing her hair again?”

At that moment, Jain walked out of the room. It seemed that she was just reading, as she was wearing a pair of round Harry Potter glasses.

“Ah, yes, she was asking for it.”

“Pft, look at Boss slumped on the couch. So cute~ Oh yeah, Newbie, have you read Violet Times?”

“Violet Times? The newspaper?”

“Yep, you’re on it as part of their top 10 rookies to watch out for. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Djinn or a Hero, but you have to have debuted within the past 3 years to be on it.”

Jain opened a copy of Violet Times and showed it to me.

===
[Top 10 Rookies to Watch]
TOP1 – Pandemonium Arena’s Rising Star, ‘Red Death’
TOP2 – Korea’s Hero, ‘Kim Suho’
TOP3 – Jeronimo Mercenary’s Black Wolf, ‘Fenrir’
TOP4 – Descendant of the Past Era’s Savior, ‘Shin Jonghak’



===

“Congrats, you’re third place.”

“Oh, this is the newspaper Violet Banquet puts out.”

“Yep. Wait, don’t tell me… you still don’t have a Violet Banquet ID?”

“No, I do. It’s just that you have to be above a certain rank to receive these. It’s expensive too.”

Violet Times, the newspaper published every week by Violet Banquet.
You had to be at least at the ‘Red Ruby’ rank to subscribe, and I also heard it cost 3 million points per month.

“Still, take a look. It’s fun. Lots of countries have been asking for you recently, especially America and China.”

“Mm… those two countries are big, so they naturally have more monsters to worry about.”

My specialty was slaughtering monsters. Given that the condition was right, I could decimate over a thousand monsters under intermediate-rank grade-1 without any help. There wouldn’t be any friendly fire either with my extreme accuracy.
In fact, just a month ago, I went to China’s Guangdong Province and slaughtered hundreds of invading monsters in a single day. I don’t mean to brag, but I was treated as a hero afterwards.

The most important aspect here was ‘time’.
The source of my fame came from the fact that I cleaned up the region in just a ‘single’ day, without any civilian casualty.

“I’m going to rest this month. I’ve been out too much this last month.”

“Sure, just make sure you accept at least one mission a month.”

As she said that, Jain put down a stack of documents on the couch.

“Pick one from here and tell me.”

“Got it.”

“Okay, I have something to do, so I’m leaving. Take care of Boss~ byebye~”

Jain disappeared into the Portal.
I picked up the documents with one hand and continued to comb Boss’ hair.

“Mmm~”

Ignoring Boss who was humming in joy, I turned the page with Stigma’s magic power.

“Eh?”

As I was glancing through them, one document caught my attention. I stopped combing Boss’ hair and focused on the document’s content.

“…Newbie?”

“….”

“Newbie?”

Kong, kong, kong.
But because I stopped for too long, Boss began to unhappily bounce up and down.
Kong, kong, kong.

“Alright, alright, stop bouncing. Your hair is going to get disheveled.”

I put the documents down and began combing Boss’ hair again.

“But like always, I’ll only do it for 15 minutes a day.”

I spoke firmly.

“…Just 5 minutes more.”

“No.”

“…Hmph.”

**


…2027, August 14th.
On a blazingly hot summer afternoon, Essence of the Strait’s apprentice heroes were out on a dispatch mission. Dispatch missions came from local governments, but they were one of the duties guilds had to perform by the central government’s directive.

“Dispatch missions are rare. Guilds are only required to perform six of them a year, so it’s easier to think of them as a once-every-other-month thing.”

A total of eight guild members were taking part in today’s dispatch mission. Of the eight, three were apprentices and five were active Heroes.

“Today’s mission is a bit easy too.”

The mission given to them by the local government was to destroy a goblin settlement.
But because goblins weren’t necessarily the easiest targets and because apprentices were participating in the mission, a high-intermediate rank grade-6 Hero was present as the leader.

“Don’t underestimate them just because they’re goblins.”

The team leader, Im Joongjin, spoke.
The three apprentices, Rachel, Yohei, and Rose, nodded with serious faces.

“But don’t be too tense either.”

“Also, the most important thing in urban battles is to prevent civilian casualties. Be careful so that your magic power doesn’t fly off somewhere.”

The vice-leader, Jeon Yohwa, added. The goblins they were subjugating today built their base in a run-down building in Incheon’s outskirt. As far as she was concerned, it was quite daring for mere goblins to come so close to a human habitat.

“Alright, let’s wait for 30 minutes for the police to finish blocking the roads. Then, us active Heroes will go in first. You apprentices can follow us slowly.”

“Yes!”

“Understood!”

Rachel replied firmly with her back straight.

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