—There’s nothing special about him.
The voice answered after ten minutes of waiting. The woman smacked her lips. It was her habit that came out when she was dissatisfied.
—Really. He’s an orphan without parents or relatives. The orphanage he was in held an examination for potential Heroes and he was admitted to the Agent Military Academy at the age of 6. He never stood out, maintaining a below-average rank before entering Cube. He has a 300 million won debt. That’s it.
'Then how did he notice me?'
To her, that was the question. Siren’s Necklace was a mythical grade accessory. Siren, of course, being the half-human half-bird creature in Greek mythology.
'Perception distortion' was one of the many abilities the necklace had. Without exceptional perception and eyesight, it was impossible to see through it.
—Do you still have doubts? I can put his name down on the notebook if you want.
The woman dropped her head.
“We still have many chances. We can write his name down after we find out more about him.”
“Oh, Boss, you were here.”
At that moment, an imposing voice resounded. The woman turned around. There, a large-bodied man was smiling viciously.
“It’s been a while, Boss.”
It was a bit funny seeing a man call a woman, whose height couldn’t reach his shoulders, Boss. However, the man clearly treated the woman with great respect.
“This place is filled with powerful Heroes.”
Click, click. The man clenched and unclenched his gauntlet-covered fist.
“Take it off. We didn’t come here to cause trouble.”
“Ah, right. I almost forgot.”
At the woman’s command, the man's black gauntlet scattered into dust. He then scratched his neck in silence, while the woman glared at him coldly.
Startled, the man asked. What the woman wanted to ask was said by the mysterious voice.
“Oh, right. There’s nothing to report. I can pop everyone’s heads with a flick of a finger.”
—Idiot… That’s obvious. I’m talking about their future potential.
The man rubbed his chin and pondered.
“Hm… I’m not sure. I went to watch the second year’s rank 1 cadet, but he wasn’t anything special.”
—First years are who you should be watching. This year’s freshman are said to be exceptional, so go look again. Oh, Boss, I have something to do now, so I’ll talk to you later.
“Yeah, screw off.”
—…You shut up.
The voice disappeared, and the man smiled as he stared at the woman.
“Boss, I don’t think there are any good saplings. What do we do? Since we’re here, can’t we fight these self-proclaimed Heroes?”
The man didn’t hide his willingness to fight. He flaunted his battle spirit by releasing his magic power, which fluttered in the air through the wind. Though it was a careless move that could draw a keen Hero's attention, the woman watched his action without a change in her expression.
“Let’s test something.”
She imbued magic power into her necklace. Immediately, the necklace changed color from gold to blue.
“How is it? Can you see me?”
“Oho, is that the treasure you got before? I can see a faint silhouette, but not your face. Ah, I have to focus. Even though you’re not moving, I keep losing sight of you if I’m not focused. Ah, you just fused with the tree, Boss!”
As expected, the necklace was working fine. Although the man was a muscle-brained brute who only trained his body, he still had a deep perception that matched his skill. But even he couldn’t see through her, so how did a mere cadet manage to do so?
“Oh, dang. I can’t tell where you are now, Boss. Let me borrow that too. I’m way too noticeable because of my large body. If there’s someone I wanted to kill…”
“We’re done here. Go.”
The woman cut off the man’s chatter.
“Make sure you complete your mission.”
The man turned around without a fuss.
The woman watched him walk away imposingly. His bulky back, mountainous shoulders, and flawlessly refined physique showed that he was anything but simple. In reality, he was an Irregular who had inherited the old Martial God’s spirit and vigor.
—…Cheok Jungyeong wasn’t always that stupid, right Boss?
Korean Peninsula’s strongest swordsman and a storm of an era that had commanded the country’s fate.
His name, Cheok Jungyeong.
That was the ‘past life’ he awakened through ‘enlightenment’ and ‘inheritance’.
The weekend passed by in the blink of an eye, and the combat exams began.
Monday’s exam was a duel.
The exam was carried out in a simple way. Cadets could nominate cadets they wanted to fight. Each cadet had 3 nominations, and a nominated cadet couldn’t refuse the duel.
Though it might seem like a way for the strong to bully the weak, Cube wasn’t so stupid. The exam was designed to be fair, giving bonus points depending on the difference in the cadets’ rankings.
For example, if Kim Suho who was rank 1 fought with a bottom-ranked cadet, he would receive negative points even if he won, while the bottom-ranked cadet would gain points even if he lost.
Furthermore, an ungraded element called ‘fame’ encouraged cadets to challenge stronger opponents.
There were thousands of cadets, numerous duel arenas, and limited time. Naturally, scouts from various countries’ guilds spectated high ranking cadets. So if low ranking cadets challenged high ranking cadets, they would be able to appeal to these scouts even if they lost.
“…I knew this would happen.”
But even with this mechanism encouraging fairness and challenge…
I was nominated by the rank 18 cadet.
[Rank 18 Kim Horak vs Rank 934 Kim Hajin]
Even if Kim Horak won, he wouldn’t gain more than three points. A fight between rank 934 and rank 18, it was obvious who would win.
…This muscle-brained buffoon.
“Well, what can I do.”
It seemed he really wanted to beat me up.
I put my laptop back in my cross bag and left the dorm.
The scenery outside was completely different than usual.
If I were to put it, it was touching and heartwarming. I could practically smell a flowery scent blowing in the wind.
“Yunseok, say cheese~”
“Wow, isn’t that Kim Suho? O-Oppa, are you friends with him!? I want to take a picture with him!”
Many cadets walked around with their family. Since last Friday, cadets were staying with their families in the same dorm room.
I walked solitarily, watching other cadets laughing and joking with their family.
“Where are you going?”
At that moment, someone scurried next to me like a cat. I paused and turned my head.
“To the duel arena, obviously.”
“Oh right, Horak nominated you~”
Yoo Yeonha feigned ignorance.
“…Is there something you want to say?”
“I tried to stop him but he insisted on fighting you. I had no choice.”
“Oh, I see.”
I continued walking. Yoo Yeonha followed after me, then suddenly backed off. There was a camera up ahead. It seemed she didn’t want to be near me in front of a camera.
Once the camera disappeared, Yoo Yeonha returned to my side.
Tak. She snapped her fingers. Immediately, a tall man walked up and handed her a suitcase.
“Here are 100 pinnacle grade bullets. But if you need any more, just tell me. You can also ask for any defensive equipment.”
Just when I was about to take it, Yoo Yeonha suddenly pulled the suitcase back.
“But don’t misunderstand. This isn’t a payment for you saving my life.”
Yoo Yeonha stuttered somewhat bashfully.
“T-This is… just a present.”
“Yeah, I get it, so give it here.”
Uninterested, I snatched the suitcase from her hands.
“Also, they're asking for my testimony.”
“For the Djinn incident.”
“Oh yeah, what about it?”
“They want me to testify, but I’ve been delaying it since it looked like you wanted to hide your power.”
So she purposely didn’t report that I sniped the Djinn.
“…Then keep doing that.”
Yun Hyun was contracted to an especially dangerous devil, Lilith. Lilith’s Djinns were ill-natured and heinous, so if they found out that I killed Yun Hyun, things could get difficult since I didn’t have any backing.
“Understood. Ah, by the way, will Horak win?”
I paused. Her question had a strange connotation.
‘Will Horak win?’
It sounded like she was asking if I would lose on purpose. In reality, I couldn’t win even if I wanted to.
“Then I’m off.”
Before I could reply, Yoo Yeonha left.
Was there another camera?
Just when I was thinking as such, I saw a group of reporters, who noticed Yoo Yeonha and was running towards her.
I arrived at the second duel arena. It was only eight in the morning but the place was bustling with people. There were also numerous reporters equipped with cameras and microphones.
Coincidentally, a nearby reporter was talking about why.
“Today, Kim Suho, Chae Nayun, and Kim Horak are scheduled to duel from 9 A.M. to 11 A.M.”
I plowed through the crowd of people and walked towards the duel arena. Suddenly, I was stopped by a man in an official Cube uniform. I asked, somewhat disgruntled.
“I’m wearing a cadet uniform, can’t you see?”
“Haha, it’s not that. Cadets need to go that way.”
The man pointed at a pathway next to the main entrance.
“Oh, thank you.”
I walked through the pathway and arrived at my assigned waiting room.
[Waiting Room 5]
This room was likely full of extras like me. People like Kim Suho and Chae Nayun were in waiting room 1, which was closest to the reporters.
I opened the door. 30~40 cadets, who were talking among themselves, immediately fell silent. Their eyes landed on me. One, two, three… After three seconds, they retracted their gaze in disinterest and continued talking.
I walked in and sat down on a random seat.
“I heard you were fighting Kim Horak.”
When I was resting by myself, someone I didn’t know struck up a conversation. His face looked somewhat familiar, so he was likely in my class.
I nodded without replying.
“Damn, Kim Horak must have you marked. You shouldn’t have shown off so much.”
I wanted to say something but gave up. Instead, I murmured inwardly.
‘Unlike you guys, I get stronger by showing off.’
“Oh right, why do you keep leaving Cube? Are you really throwing money in cabaret clubs and brothels?”
It seemed these rumors were still going around. I shook my head silently.
“No way, you really do?”
But he interpreted my gesture as he wanted. Without a choice, I opened my mouth.
“No. Even if I want to, I don’t have the money.”
bonus chapter *clap* *clap*