In Prestige, where the difference between day and night was unclear, the flow of time was still identifiable even without the help from the magnificent invention called the ‘clock’ by the virtue of the moon-like mass up in the sky.
When this mass sprinkled fragments of light on Prestige, it was daytime. But these white particles of light only signified half of a whole day. Currently, the particles were shining faintly from beneath the western horizon, so it had to be dawn.
To Chae Nayun who hadn’t slept a wink since yesterday, the dawn was rather long.
She was on the 3rd floor in Essence of the Strait’s Hideout. Lying on a bed in a room full of other guild members, she was deep in thought rather than asleep.
She kept thinking about the accursed words she had heard the day before in Splendor.
—Hajin really came to see Chae Nayun?
—Ah, hey, quiet! Keep your voice down. That’s still a secret….
—A while ago, when Nayun was cursed by a banshee.
The moment she heard those words she clenched her teeth.
‘I shouldn’t have trusted anyone.’
The ashes lying deep inside her heart had once again lit up.
But at the same time, Chae Nayun realized that this wasn’t a big deal, at least to them.
—Ah… no surprises there. Hajin isn’t the type to stay still after hearing about that. So? What happened?
—Well, I really shouldn’t talk. Anyways, that’s why I’m wondering… is it true that they used to date?
Yi Jiyoon incited Kim Suho to speak more to lure something out of him, to simply satisfy her curiosity.
—I don’t know exactly. Ask Nayun or Hajin directly later.
—…Come on~ Then what was the point in me telling you all that?
Chae Nayun didn’t have the guts to call her out and complain.
After ‘that incident’, she was confident that she had become more audacious, yet, at that moment, all she could do was stay hidden in the shadows and listen in on them. Plus, she felt it would be strange for her to get angry when she was the one eavesdropping on them.
Chae Nayun joined them a while later pretending not to have heard anything.
She tried to act normal in vain and returned to the hideout after a day of training. She then handed the prizes to Kim Youngjin. The ‘contract’ was that she would yield everything she earned in the Tower to them. Although Yoo Yeonha said that wasn’t necessary, Chae Nayun did so anyways.
Contrary to Chae Nayun’s expectation, Kim Youngjin took a liking to the [Lv.3 Infinitely Multiplying Origami Letter]. He praised Chae Nayun in front of other guild members saying that he now had a way to communicate even when the messenger was dead.
When he put it like that, it did seem like a good item. She blamed herself for not being able to come up with a use.
In any case, as a reward, she was allowed to keep the remaining items to herself.
That was 6 hours ago.
For six hours, Chae Nayun had trouble sleeping.
Thoughts and anxiety drove off her sleep.
According to Yi Jiyoon, Kim Hajin had come to see her when she was unconscious and hovering between life and death.
She tried hard not to think about why, because the image of him looking down on her in pity filled her with disgust and anger.
Instead, she turned her train of thought to ‘Extra7’.
The one who gave her the antidote, an old acquaintance since her days at Cube.
There was something suspicious about what Yi Jiyoon said. If what she said was true, then Yi Jiyoon met both Kim Hajin and Extra7 around the same time.
Of course, Kim Hajin and Extra7 should be separate individuals, but….
Chae Nayun’s eyes turned cold.
‘Maybe that’s not necessarily the case.’
Her gut feeling was that there was some kind of a relationship between the two. This feeling was far from logical but intense like a sixth sense.
Then a noise came from the next room. It was the sound of Kim Youngjin, the most diligent and punctual member, waking up.
Chae Nayun, sick and tired of her circling thoughts, also got up.
Yi Jiyoon was sleeping in the adjacent bed.
Chae Nayun stood silently and stared down at her, deep in sleep and drooling….
‘I couldn’t sleep at all because of you… what is it that you know?’
Chae Nayun stared at Yi Jiyoon with cold eyes and then stopped abruptly. The halt turned into a small propulsion which rushed to Yi Jiyoon’s cheek.
The sharp pain woke Yi Jiyoon up. Although her consciousness was blurry, the pain was vivid. Her eyes filled with tears automatically as she grabbed her cheek and looked up at Chae Nayun.
“A mosquito. A huge mosquito. You okay?”
Chae Nayun showed her hands. There was indeed a mosquito crushed to death.
“S-Still, i-it hurt a-a-a lot….”
“It hurt? Sorry.”
Chae Nayun had hit her as weakly as possible but Yi Jiyoon still whimpered. Tears were about to flow from her eyes.
“Alright, get up. Let’s go training.”
But Chae Nayun grabbed her wrist and pulled her up by force.
“Wait, Nayun, I was gonna go home during the rest day… O-OWW—”
“You can’t. Why do you I think I taught you how to get to the 6th floor? Today, you’re gonna train with me ‘til death. Let’s get stronger together. Kim Suho is waiting for us.”
“Wait, wait, it hurts! My wrist! Wrist! It’s gonna break! AAK!”
[It has been more than 100 days since you first entered the Tower. You can now acquire one skill outside the Tower semi-permanently.]
[Special skill — Lv.4 Algorithm]
[Be careful, for death will rob you of your skill.]
System messages appeared beneath my eyelids. When I finished reading them and opened my eyes, I was already back on Earth.
I was in the Chameleon Troupe’s hideout that I had personally reconstructed.
Although today was a rest day, Jain and I were the only returnees. The huge lobby only contained goblins who were busy cleaning.
“Oh~ So it’s true that you can bring a skill outside. …Oh, by the way, you have a mission, Hajin.”
I was about to call Khalifa but stopped and tilted my head to one side.
“Yeah. Boss told me to give you one. I’m gonna go back to Jeronimo and fetch it, so get ready in the meantime~”
Jain said and handed me a jewel box.
“Effective goods. They’re valuable jewels. Can you turn them into rings or necklaces or something like that~?”
I looked inside. There were jewels considered valuable even with current technological advancements like blood diamonds and black opals, and jewels found only inside the Tower like icelight stones and firesilver stones.
“…When did you get your hands on these?”
They were all super expensive.
“Hehe, there’s a reason I call myself the Phantom Thief. So, can you?”
“I can, but what about the cost?”
“I’m pretty expensive.”
Young Dwarf's Dexterity combined with Aether which had become one with me.
The precision of a machine and delicacy of a human had come together on my hands, making my craftsmanship surpass the modern era.
Jain said with a trembling voice.
“There’s about 20 of them. I’ll take four.”
She grabbed my wrist with a single cry.
“…But you, you, you’re rich.”
“I can’t buy things like these with money. How about just three, then?”
Effective goods could only be obtained through monster hunting and quests.
Though, in this case, Jain seemed to have stolen some from here and there.
Jain nodded reluctantly.
“But you have to do a good job~”
“Don’t worry about that.”
After I said goodbye to Jain, I hurried home to see her, who was both my friend and family.
However, no one was home.
‘It’s only evening, so she’s probably with her friends from the next block.’ With that in mind, I headed to Yun Seung-Ah’s house.
When I rang the doorbell, the speaker turned on.
—Who is it?
—Eh, who? Hajin Hajin?!
As expected, Evandel’s noisy voice came from behind the door.
I smiled and waited for Yun Seung-Ah to open the door.
Evandel ran to me as soon as the door opened. Tatatata. She came to me in loud footsteps and hugged me right away. I picked her up as Evandel clung to me like a cicada.
“Long time no see.”
I felt warmth when I stepped into the house with Evandel. Haeyeon’s parents were not home—for some reason, they were always busy when I was here—but Yun Seung-Ah, Haeyeon, and another friend of Evandel were there.
“Good timing. We were just getting ready for dinner.”
Yun Seung-Ah mentioned. I glanced at the kitchen and smiled. Luckily, the ingredients were out but the cooking hadn’t started.
“Hajin~ Were you in the Tower~?”
Evandel asked as she rubbed her cheeks against me in my arms.
“Yeah. So you know about the Tower now?”
“I learned about it on TV and YouTube.”
Two kids and Hayang approached me as I held Evandel in my arms. The taller was Haeyeon and the shorter was Jiyeon, I think.
I patted them on their heads lightly and put Evandel down. Then, I headed to the kitchen. It looked like today’s menu was tomahawk steak.
“Can you wait a little bit? I’ll start cooking—“
“I’ll do it.”
With a smile, I picked up the knife that Yun Seung-Ah was about to grab and sent her back.
…2 hours later.
Yun Seung-Ah called my cooking skills ‘fantastic’. The kids were also very satisfied. They lay sprawled near the sofa due to languor after meal.
But Evandel was a little different. While her friends were half-asleep from eating until they were full, she watched TV and suddenly widened her eyes.
I also looked at the TV.
The TV show was about a festival in England which would take place during Christmas.
“Evandel says she wants to visit England.”
“Yes. I took her with me when I went to Paris for work. It looks like she’s taken an interest in traveling abroad since then.”
Evandel kneeled in front of the TV and watched it with sparkling eyes.
‘England. I guess she recognizes her home instinctively. Though, I’m not sure ‘home’ is the right word.’
I received a message and checked my smartwatch. The sender was Jeronimo. It was Jain.
[Hajin. This time, your mission as Fenrir is in England. You like England, so no problem there, right?]
I smiled as soon as I read it.
“Well then, we’ll just have to go.”
Fenrir’s gun was fired for the first time in nearly half a year. England’s Merseyside county was practically carpet bombed by a ferocious wolf.
The power of each bullet exceeded that of a cannonball, yet the wolf’s aim was as precise as ever. There, he destroyed the homes of sea monsters as easily as cutting through tofu.
As usual, there were no civilian casualties or any loss of property. Other experts of the field clicked their tongues at his meticulous skill. The monsters were removed neatly as if they had been cut out using a scalpel.
Fenrir let the world know that he came back from the Tower of Wish stronger than ever.
“Thank you for taking on the mission.”
Rachel called Fenrir both as the princess of England and as the representative of the English Royal Court guild.
“Apparently there was a subjugation mission planned out, but it was delayed in order to minimize the damage to the nearby city.”
Sea monsters were able to cause tsunamis, but they only did so when they were enraged since tsunamis could destroy their homes as well.
However, Fenrir didn’t even give them the time to get enraged.
Mechanical shooting. Error-free destruction.
From the start to the end, it took him only about 15 minutes to destroy their homes completely.
He beat his old record. Just like Rachel, Kim Hajin had also gotten stronger in the Tower of Wish.
—That’s what partners are for. More than that, you should be careful. England isn’t as safe as the Tower.
“…You don’t have to worry. I learned a good skill.”
Inside the limousine heading to the English Royal Court guild, Rachel looked out the window as she talked on the phone and discovered someone.
That someone was talking on the phone just as she was.
He had sunglasses on but his silhouette was similar to that of Kim Hajin.
She had run into the person she was speaking to on the phone by chance.
‘What a coincidence.’
She was about to roll down the window happily when she spotted something and froze.
Kim Hajin was holding hands with a child who had her blonde hair neatly tied in a ponytail….
The limousine passed by them and a familiar face was reflected in Rachel’s eyes.
Rachel was startled.
The girl smiling next to him. The girl skipping down the street happily with one hand in Kim Hajin’s hand and another hand holding an ice cream. She was also wearing a cute bunny hat.
She was undoubtedly the girl that Rachel had seen four years ago through what she called ‘Future Premonition’.
The limousine soon turned a corner and the two disappeared from her view.
Rachel shouted to the driver in a hurry.
The limousine stopped with a skidding sound.
Kim Hajin’s voice rang out from her watch as Rachel got off the car. She had just seen ‘something’ and was sure that she wasn’t mistaken.
She hurried back towards the direction that the car had just passed by.
She turned the corner, to where Kim Hajin was….
“Stop what? Rachel-ssi?”
—Stop what? Rachel-ssi?
Rachel found Kim Hajin in an unfrequented alley.
He was still Kim Hajin even with sunglasses on. She didn’t have to check that the man in front of her was Kim Hajin because his voice matched the voice that came out of her smartwatch. However…
The thing next to him was not a girl….
But a puppy.
A cute pomeranian.
The puppy ran towards Rachel, her golden fur fluttering in air. Kim Hajin turned around to follow her.
“Hey, where are you go… Huh? Rachel-ssi?”
Kim Hajin’s eyes widened and Rachel nodded at him.
“I passed by you in a car, so I came running.”
That’s all Rachel could say.
“I see… It’s nice to see you. What a coincidence.”
But Kim Hajin’s reaction was quite dull. He didn’t seem too surprised, as if he already knew that she would be here.
Rachel expressed her suspicion through a different question.
“Excuse me, Hajin-ssi, but weren’t you with someone just now?”
“A child. A girl about this tall.”
But all Kim Hajin did was tilt his head to one side casually.
‘Was it all in my head? Or did I mistake him for someone else?’
Amidst Rachel’s confusion, the puppy pressed her front paws into Rachel’s legs.
“Don’t just watch, hold her.”
“Huh? Oh… Okay.”
Rachel did as he said.
The cute puppy snuggled in her arms. Her smile was just like that of a human. Rachel patted her head and continued.
“I thought you left right after the mission….”
“I stayed to watch the festival.”
Around that time, people were starting to gather near the alley.
As the princess of England, Rachel’s popularity was unrivaled in her homeland.
She couldn’t be simply hanging around on the streets.
“I think I need to go now.”
As such, Rachel tried to put the puppy down.
But the puppy didn’t want to let go of her, and Kim Hajin had to separate them personally.
After removing her by force, he patted the whimpering, sullen puppy softly.
“Your puppy is… a lot like a human.”
“Is that so?”
At that moment, a limousine approached the alley.
Kim Hajin smiled wryly.
“You should get going. It’ll be a lot harder when more people get here.”
“I’ll come see you later.”
As the alley that was getting more and more crowded, Rachel nodded.
She looked at the puppy in Kim Hajin’s arms… then smiled softly at her and stepped back.
“Princess! Oh, my princess….”
She smiled reluctantly at the people cheering at her and got in the limousine.
Then, she looked at Kim Hajin from the window.
Kim Hajin grabbed the puppy’s hand and waved it to say goodbye. It was cute, but Rachel was quite distraught. There was no way she was imagining things, yet imagination was the only explanation for her confusion.
“Then, I’ll start the car.”
The limousine proceeded smoothly, and Rachel became absorbed in deep thought.
[Tower of Wish]
At 3 p.m. today, a huge explosion erupted on the 5th floor’s ‘northeast gateway no.5’.
This gateway was under the Guild Alliance’s control under the refutable premise that if ordinary people tried to capture it, there would be countless casualties. The Guild Alliance’s rule had not been challenged until now.
Today, the gateway disappeared without a trace. It crumbled down to nothingness after the explosion.
The Guild Alliance hurried to the scene to reveal the identity of the ruffian who had the guts to do something like this on a designated rest day.
“Um… We think it was… Black Lotus.”
However, their burden was lightened as they found out that retaliation was impossible to begin with.
“Yes, there’s no doubt about it. His symbol was on the ground and I’m looking at it right now.”
Beside the crumbled gateway was the symbol of Black Lotus.
—…Haa. Withdraw, then.
How could they stop a Ranker from capturing the gateway when he alone possessed power equal to a single guild?
Guild Alliance members sighed and turned around.
“Yes, sir. We’ll head back now.”
They turned around feebly.
“Hm. That’s done.”
…However, contrary to their expectations, the mastermind behind the attack was not Black Lotus.
Rather, it was his superior, the nameless ‘Boss’.
She had impersonated her subordinate for his own sake.
No one could imitate Fenrir because he used a gun. There was no one else that could display such terrifying power with bullets.
However, Black Lotus could be imitated with a bit of effort.
Boss decided to nip the suspicion that could become her subordinate’s Achilles’ heel.
Currently, there should be lots of media coverage of Fenrir’s mission on Earth. So even if it was discovered that Kim Hajin was Extra7, he would be Fenrir and not Black Lotus.
Boss waited until the Guild Alliance members reported the explosion as Black Lotus’ doing and returned to Crevon on the 8th floor.
Imitating the arrows of her subordinate was tiring, but she still had the homework from that cocky underling.
Boss entered the Ironblood Duchess’ study. Soldiers, who had been guarding the study with great intensity, stepped aside like docile puppies in front of her VIP ID.
Out of the many books stocked up in the study, she picked out only the skillbooks.
It was harder than she thought.
There were way too many books.
Boss even banged her fist against the bookshelf out of anger in the middle.
But with great perseverance, she finally managed to pick out 2 skillbooks.
[Basic Skill Acquisition Book — Lv.0 Magic Power Circulation]
[Basic Skill Acquisition Book — Lv.1 Magic Circuit Remodeling]
They were both passive skills regarding magic power.
‘These should be enough,’ thought Boss as she turned around.
She couldn’t help but be startled in the next moment.
Someone was standing right in front of her.
A woman had been standing behind her all this time without a hint of presence.
Above her head were the following words.
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