The duel arena was a miniature version of the Roman Colosseum. The central arena was slightly bigger than a standard soccer field, while the seats circling the arena could seat about 5000 people.
The design was a great success.
Ten minutes before the start of a duel, the guest seats were packed full of people.
“How did you get such a nice seat?”
The high rank Hero, Oh Junhyuk, asked in surprise as he handed Seo Youngji a hotdog. The seats she grabbed were the frontmost seats, which had the best view of the arena.
“You tell me to focus on the mission, but you come here first thing in the morning to grab the best seat…”
“Shut up and sit down.”
Oh Junhyuk snickered and sat down next to her.
“…Wow, it sure brings back memories, doesn’t it?”
“You must mean bad memories. I remember you saying you were beaten so hard that you couldn’t even watch mixed martial arts afterwards.”
“…I’ve gotten better because it’s always on TV. My son loves it too.”
Mixed Martial Arts was one of the most popular sports worldwide. It was especially popular among kids and teenagers.
The sport featured one-on-one or team battles between superhumans. Naturally, the fights were extremely flashy, with magic power blowing like storms and strikes cutting the earth in half. The might they displayed served as the perfect motivation for young children to pursue strength.
“Really? That’s nice to hear.”
“Nice to hear? Please, the world must be coming to an end. Djinns are more active than ever but nowadays, becoming a sports star is ranked third for cadets choice of career path. They’re saying they’d rather go into sports than joining a small to medium sized guild.”
“I don’t see what’s wrong with it.”
“You don’t see what’s wrong with it? Because of people like you, the Association is in this pitiful state…”
In the middle of his sentence, Oh Junhyuk felt an extremely battle thirsty gaze.
“…Who’s that guy?”
He stared at the seat on the opposite side of the arena.
A man was giving a menacing look and smiling with his teeth out. His fearless and unrestrained smile was clearly aimed at Oh Junhyuk and Seo Youngji.
“He’s been doing that for a while. He must be a fan.”
“A fan? He can see through our disguise?”
“I guess so. Ah, it’s starting.”
The host announced the start of the day’s duels, and Seo Youngji immediately took out her laptop.
“Typical Associate executive… Alright, who should I be looking out for?”
“Kim Suho and Chae Nayun. They’re on the top of their class. And I guess Yi Yeonghan and Kim Horak too.”
“Oh! Two of the top 6 are here? Who are they fighting?”
Kim Suho and Chae Nayun were well-known even in the Association. Even Oh Junhyuk, who wasn’t into watching duels, couldn’t help but be interested in their match.
“Kim Suho is fighting Yi Yeonghan. Chae Nayun is fighting Joseph. Kim Horak is fighting Kim Hajin.”
“Other than Kim Horak, it looks like most of them chose appropriate opponents. So, who’s Kim Hajin?”
“Kim Hajin, rank 934”
“…Rank 934? Isn’t that too low? Is there anything special about him?”
Seo Youngji pushed up her glasses.
“There are bad rumors about him. My cousin in Cube told me that he’s quite distasteful.”
“Ah, so Kim Horak’s punishing a delinquent. I see, I see. Who would have thought Kim Horak had a sense of justice? He’s sacrificing his own grade to do this too…”
Tak. Seo Youngji closed her laptop.
Oh Junhyuk crossed his arms and leaned against the back of the seat.
The first duel was between the two aforementioned cadets.
—The first duel is between rank 18, Kim Horak, and rank 934, Kim Hajin! How will Kim Hajin overcome the difference in their rank? Why did Kim Horak nominate such a low ranked cadet?
The unfortunate host tried his best to hype up the match which had an obvious result.
A mana barrier went up around the arena. It was to prevent the two cadets’ attacks from leaking out.
“That must be him.”
Oh Junhyuk looked at the man walking out from the right passageway. He looked… average. So average in fact that he wouldn’t even remember his face the next day.
Cadets were prohibited from using their personal weapons during exams. It was because scouts wanted to observe cadets based on their ability rather than the power of their weapons. As such, I couldn’t use the Desert Eagle. I also wanted to hide Aether if possible.
In other words, I only had a training handgun and a protective armor provided by Cube to rely on. With just these two, the chances of me beating Kim Horak was slim to none. But that didn’t mean I planned on losing one-sidedly, especially against that bastard Kim Horak.
Led by the staff, I walked up to the stage.
First, I took a good look around the arena. A translucent mana barrier surrounded the arena with thousands of spectators looking down. Both an indescribable pressure and excitement overwhelmed me.
While I was shaking from this strange sensation, Kim Horak walked up from the other side.
“Oh~ Kim Horak.”
I smiled and waved my hand.
“How did you do on your written exams?”
I provoked him, but Kim Horak equipped his gauntlet without talking. I also held up my handgun. Our physical stats should differ by at least 4 points. It was the difference between an ordinary human and an adult elephant. He would snap my body in half the moment he closed in on me.
“Let’s take it easy, alright?”
—Counting down! Three!
The host must have thought we were ready, as he started counting down.
Crack— Crack— I could hear Kim Horak cracking his knuckles from all the way here.
He ignited his magic power, drawing it above the surface of his body. Layering magic power around one’s body was a technique called qi reinforcement. Kim Horak was still inexperienced in it, but my bullets were unable to penetrate his incomplete qi reinforcement.
His center of gravity leaned forward and he dug his feet into the ground.
Currently, we were 150 meters away. It was a distance Kim Horak could close in just three seconds.
But I didn’t come unprepared.
Kim Horak immediately charged forward like a savage beast. My sense of time slowed down. I had activated Bullet Time.
I released Stigma’s magic power which flowed into my handgun and adhered to a single bullet. Fusing with Stigma’s magic power, the bullet then carried a special property as I set beforehand.
When it clashed with reinforced magic power, it would shatter it instantly.
I had to use half of Stigma’s magic power, but it was worth it.
I pulled the trigger at the wild boar charging towards me. He didn’t even try to dodge my bullet. In his mind, it wasn’t even a question whether my bullets could threaten him in any way.
But when my bullet clashed with his qi reinforcement, a strange explosion occurred. The explosion shattered Kim Horak’s qi reinforcement as though it was a glass window.
Now that he was bare-skinned, he was nothing but a target with a huge surface area.
I pulled the trigger freely.
Kim Horak jumped to the side, clearly aiming to circle around me. I followed his movement and shot my bullets accordingly, and Kim Horak backed off helplessly. The barrage of gunshots didn’t stop. I continuously pulled the trigger, bullets endlessly seeking after Kim Horak.
He held on, jumping up, rolling to the side, and lifting the arena’s tile to use as a shield.
After stopping for a moment, I rubbed my chin and stared at Kim Horak. A blue aura was rising from his body once again. His qi reinforcement had regenerated.
But qi reinforcement wasn’t a technique one could use repeatedly. Even now, it was easy to see that his qi reinforcement was thinner than the one he initially created.
It was likely that this was his final one.
He licked his dried lips and charged at me once again. This time, his movements were quite complex. Like a crab, he zigzagged as he steadily charged forward. His movements weren’t as predictable, as it had no set pattern. Furthermore, I couldn’t just shoot at him, as he moved faster than my bullet.
But I came prepared in case this happened.
I took out a dagger from my belt and tethered the blade with Stigma’s magic power. Then, I lightly threw it.
Master Sharpshooter also applied to throwing. The dagger flew forward like a boomerang, but this dagger didn’t have any special power. It likely couldn’t even scratch his qi reinforcement.
But Kim Horak didn’t know that.
He was likely worried, thinking there was something special about the dagger. Just like how my first bullet carried an unexpected power, he had to have suspicions about this dagger.
In the end, Kim Horak hopped to the side to dodge the dagger. I pulled on the string of magic power tethered to the dagger, changing its trajectory. The dagger turned in a ninety-degree angle and chased after Kim Horak. Judging by his widened eyes, he must be thinking this.
‘There’s definitely something about this dagger.’
However, Kim Horak didn’t try to dodge the dagger. A dagger wasn’t as fast or as small as a bullet. As such, Kim Horak tried to grab the dagger. And he succeeded. It was an incredible display of hand-eye coordination.
But in order to catch something, one had to stop moving.
A bullet I fired penetrated his qi reinforcement.
The bullet cleanly shattered his qi reinforcement. While Kim Horak staggered, I also retrieved the dagger.
Now, Kim Horak was completely open. The question was what he would do next…
As expected, he rushed in recklessly. He didn’t back off or move to the side. He simply charged forward while taking all my bullets.
Right arm, left arm, right thigh, left calf…
He held on even after being shot in multiple places.
After finally closing in on me, he swung his fist. I immediately tumbled back to dodge his attack, and Kim Horak chased after me.
Eventually, I arrived at a dead end with the wall behind me. But before Kim Horak could feel any joy, I climbed up the wall.
With Parkour’s power, I could climb anything that was considered a wall. My hands and feet adhered to the wall like magnets, and I continued to fire from a distance Kim Horak could never reach.
“Hey! You fuck, this is cheating!”
Taking this exact situation into account, I had focused my bullets on his legs. Kim Horak didn’t have the strength to jump this high.
Now, it was a completely one-sided attack.
Demoted to a mere target, Kim Horak constantly moved around hoping to dodge my bullets. However, even a single hit was enough to strike him with pain. Thigh, shoulder, foot… Injuries continued to pile up, and Kim Horak continued to slow down as a result.
Eventually, he stopped completely.
I aimed for his stomach for a final attack. Every cadet had a device around their stomach that would automatically end the duel if one side received a critical injury.
But no bullet went out. I rummaged through my pockets. I had no bullets.
I had brought 240 bullets, but it seemed I had used them all.
With no other choice, I jumped down.
As I completely used up Stigma’s magic power, I only had my dagger to work with.
All I had to do was to approach Kim Horak and stab his stomach… But it didn’t look like Kim Horak would surrender.
He was glaring at me with ferocious killing intent. If I got close, he would undoubtedly rip me to shreds. To make things worse, one of his arms was unhurt.
I looked around.
I remembered the crowd being excited at first, but now the arena was eerily quiet. It was as though I was in a library.
This was a good enough payback.
Kim Horak was unable to hit me single time, but I had pummeled him continuously. Not to mention, my score would go up even if I lost this duel.
I sneered at Kim Horak and raised my hands.
Then, I spoke quietly.
The referee immediately blew his whistle.
The mana barrier surrounding the arena disappeared.
I walked away, whistling leisurely.