Lying on the ground, I stared up at the ceiling. Scorching heat dug into my clothes. The dungeon’s boss had been killed, but the heat remained.
Bored, I tilted my head to the side. Chae Nayun’s team was talking some distance away. They offered me to join them but I refused. I was too tired to answer the questions they’d inevitably ask.
At that moment, Chae Nayun, who was stealing glances my way for a while, took a deep breath and got up. Then, she walked over.
She cast a shadow over me and looked down at my face.
I curled up with only my upper body. Seeing sweat dripping down, Chae Nayun frowned slightly. But after straightening her expression, she sat down next to me. Of course, she was still about ten feet away.
“…I thought I should I say this.”
I wasn’t sure if she was embarrassed or ashamed, but Chae Nayun spoke with great difficulty while looking up at the ceiling.
I was genuinely at a loss for words. I stared at Chae Nayun in a daze. That word was one I thought I’d never hear from her.
Age 17 to 27 in the story.
She was only 16 by American age. Despite how young she was, the life she lived was far from normal. It was one filled with tragedies.
The first tragedy should have occurred on her sixth birthday. On what should have been the happiest day for a six year old child, her mother was killed by a Djinn.
After that incident, her personality developed in a completely different direction.
The child, whose dream was to “become like her Mommy”, cried tears of blood and sought to become a Hero. While other children her age laughed and played around, she trained in hitting and breaking targets.
The scar from that day was etched in the deepest part of her heart. As a fourth generation chaebol, even having a ‘true friend’ to mend this wound was a disgrace. Revealing one’s deepest thoughts was akin to revealing one’s weakness, and the hyenas infesting the outside world would jump at their chance to take advantage.
As such, the only person she could trust and rely on was her blood relative who also shared the same pain, Chae Jinyoon. Because her father had been too busy as the successor of a chaebol family, she rarely saw her father.
But this cruel world had even taken Chae Jinyoon away from her.
The emotions she must have felt… I had no way of knowing because I didn’t write them.
But if I were to make a guess, Chae Nayun most likely honed her conviction to be even sharper. Only believing in herself and taking the pursuit of strength as her way of life, she must have ignored the worsening wound on her heart. Telling herself that she will overcome everything on her own and not opening her heart to anyone else, she must have put herself through arduous and painful physical training…
Because of this, there weren’t many people who had received her thanks. I knew this better than anyone, even Chae Nayun herself, because I was the one who purposely wrote “sorry” rather than “thank you.”
But just now, she had said “thanks”.
That was the greatest praise she could have given.
But at the same time, the goal I had to accomplish tightened my heart.
I had to kill the person she loved and respected the most. I had to make her experience the feeling of losing her family once again.
“By the way…”
Chae Nayun’s voice cut off my thought. She was smacking her lips as though she had something more to say, but no words left her mouth.
I urged her in frustration.
Chae Nayun added just one sentence with her eyes still on the ceiling.
“…Why aren’t you fighting back?”
“Hm? What do you… Oh.”
She was talking about Shin Jonghak’s lackeys.
Even though she was the one who instigated it, it seemed she felt sympathetic since I didn’t fight back.
I gave a simple reply.
“Because I can’t win even if I fight back.”
Chae Nayun furrowed her brows in an instant and finally looked back down at me. She truly had a baby-face. Unlike Yoo Yeonha, who looked adult-like, Chae Nayun’s cheeks still had a bit of baby fat. Was it because the Magma Golem beat her up? She looked like a bun. I laughed inwardly.
“What are you talking about, I saw the power of your gun with my own eyes.”
I took out the Desert Eagle from my bag. To put it back in my extradimensional space, Stigma had to recover its magic power.
“Personal weapon. Does that explain it?”
Looking at my high rank weapon, Chae Nayun’s eyes widened in shock.
“You know you’re going to get expelled if you’re found out, right?”
“That’s why I’m using it only when I need to.”
Chae Nayun closed her mouth. Then, she rubbed her chin as though she was pondering about something. I had no way of knowing what this girl was thinking about. But I waited since it looked like she was looking for an answer.
After about 3 minutes, Chae Nayun finally voiced her thoughts.
“Things still don’t add up completely… Ah, wait, your Gift! You have a Gift that strengthens guns!”
I held myself back from bursting into laughter. For the record, Gift and enlightenment were two different things. Even before one became enlightened, a Gift could be observed and developed through experience and hard-work.
“You can think what you want.”
I hit her off with a shrug. It was a misunderstanding I didn’t need to correct.
Chae Nayun seemed to have concluded her guess as the truth, as she nodded with a proud face.
“Huhu, I knew it. Oh, I’ll let you off the hook for using your personal weapon. Just don’t use it again.”
Chae Nayun got up and dusted her butt.
Before walking away, she stopped and turned her head towards me.
“…By the way.”
With her back still pointing my way, she asked in a much lower voice than before.
“…Don’t you have anything to say to me?”
The question she asked indifferently made me flinch.
This might be her offer of reconciliation, that she would forgive me for my insensitive remarks about her older brother. If I was right, from what I knew about Chae Nayun’s personality, she was making a huge concession.
However, I rejected her offer clearly and also got up.
My current relationship with Chae Nayun was at the perfect distance. Cold, yet not freezing. I called it the “uncomfortable neighbor” relationship. Anything more would be too much of a burden on me.
With that, Chae Nayun left.
As I watched her leave, my eyes met Sven’s. He didn’t dodge my eyes. He tilted his head while looking at me with emotionless eyes. This sequence of action put a chill down my back.
—Emergency alert. All cadets are to leave the Dungeon immediately. Once again, all cadets are to leave the Dungeon immediately.
A sound rang out from the ceiling. The mock Dungeon trial had come to an end.
I turned back to return the way I came from.
But at that moment, I discovered a familiar person.
It was Yoo Yeonha.
Though others might only see a faint silhouette, I could clearly see Yoo Yeonha in the distance. It seemed she really climbed the wall, as she was covered in dust.
But as everyone just heard, the mock Dungeon trial was over. In other words, she had gone through all that trouble for nothing.
With her eyes closed, Yoo Yeonha shook at the injustice.
It seemed the mock Dungeon trial ran into several problems.
The first problem was that many of the internal cameras had stopped working.
The second was that was a systematic error. A problem had occurred with the distribution of people in charge of monitoring the situation, and as a result, the instructors had discovered the broken cameras too late.
The third and final problem was that real monsters had trespassed into the Dungeon instead of mana puppets. This was the biggest problem.
The mock Dungeon trial was canceled as a result, and everyone’s grades were postponed as well.
“Wow, really? A natural born Magma Golem?”
“Yeah, I heard it was intermediate ranked.”
“No way… So what happened? Who killed it?”
“It was Chae Nayun and Sven…”
The cadets gathered outside the Dungeon chattered loudly, while the instructors checked people off to make sure there were no casualties.
‘…Then what was all the trouble I went through for?’
Yoo Yeonha let out a deep sigh. She staggered from the rising sense of emptiness and lethargy. Then, she discovered Chae Nayun who was walking around the Dungeon’s entrance. Yoo Yeonha had many questions she wanted Chae Nayun to answer.
“Hm? Oh, Yeonha. What’s up?”
“Are you okay? I heard the Magma Golem…”
After bringing up a topic she wasn’t interested in, Yoo Yeonha brought up Kim Hajin when Chae Nayun seemed to be bored.
“Oh right, you know Kim Hajin, right? The guy you brought up during our last—”
“Mm? Ah~ Kim Hajin?”
Chae Nayun’s reaction was completely different than before. Previously, she growled when Kim Hajin’s name was brought up, but now she looked completely fine talking about him.
“Uh… Yeah, Kim Hajin.”
“What about him?”
“Well… Remember what you said before? That he—”
Chae Nayun lightly cut her off.
“Oh, that? It was a misunderstanding.”
Yoo Yeonha was so dumbfounded that she blurted out in polite speech.
It was only a few days ago that you were coughing up blood while talking about him, and now you’re saying it was a misunderstanding? I don’t think it’s a misunderstanding now!
“It was a misunderstanding, really. Well, I wouldn’t say he’s someone I want to be friends with, but he’s not such a bad guy.”
‘Yep, that’s right.’ Chae Nayun nodded as though she was satisfied with her own judgment.
Yoo Yeonha stared at Chae Nayun in a daze. She was so dumbfounded that she wanted to strangle her.
“Oh, hey! Kim Suho!”
Suddenly, Chae Nayun shouted loudly. Yoo Yeonha felt like her eardrums would burst.
“I’ll talk to you later, Yeonha!”
Chae Nayun ran past Yoo Yeonha and disappeared. She was quick, like a puppy chasing after her master. Yoo Yeonha turned around to see just who she was waiting for. It was Kim Suho. Chae Nayun ran up to Kim Suho, who had just left the Dungeon, slapped his back, and stood in front of him as if to block his path.
“Whoa, that’s surprised me.”
“Did anything happen to your team?”
“…It was no joke. I almost died from exhaustion.”
For the record, Kim Suho chose the 8th pathway.
“I can see that on your face. You look like a grandpa.”
Yoo Yeonha watched their affectionate interaction with interest. She was happy seeing them hit off well together. Thinking about it now, Kim Suho did seem to resemble Chae Nayun’s older brother.
“Oh, Chae Nayun, here you are.”
At that moment, Shin Jonghak cut in between them as if to break them apart.
Yoo Yeonha sighed. Since Shin Jonghak was there, Yoo Yeonha began to walk towards them. At that moment, she discovered a man staring at Chae Nayun from a distance.
“…What’s up with him?”
The man was Kim Hajin. But the way he was watching Chae Nayun seemed… strange. His eyes seemed to carry a heavy worry and a deep sadness. Yoo Yeonha stared at his disgusting eyes for a moment.
It didn’t take long for her to come to a conclusion.
“What, he likes Chae Nayun too? The heck… What’s so good about a tomboy like her…?”
Yoo Yeonha trembled from the frustration rising from deep in her heart.
But even if other men liked Chae Nayun, Shin Jonghak couldn’t.
With such thought, she quickly walked over to Kim Suho, Shin Jonghak, and Chae Nayun.
Guess who overslept again from his nap...