Chapter 40. Intruders (4)


The duel was over. About eight minutes had passed.
It wasn’t particularly fast or slow.
The result of the duel was as expected, but because the process was beyond anyone’s imagination, the audience was dead silent.

“How scary. Those were real bullets, right?”

In this silence, Oh Junhyuk looked down at Kim Hajin, who was walking to his waiting room.

“Yep.”

Seo Youngji nodded.

“But he doesn’t look hurt at all, even though he looks like a beehive.”

This time, he spoke while pointing at Kim Horak. Just like he said, Kim Horak’s body was full of bullets. Though the vital points like the neck and heart were covered in protective armor, he didn’t bleed much and didn’t look to be in pain either.

“For martial art types, their bodies are their weapons. Recovery is their specialty.”

“So, what did you think?”

“Kim Hajin did well and Kim Horak was too reckless. Kim Horak tried to show too much and suffered a loss. If he took it slow… Well, I guess the result would have been the same.”

In truth, Kim Horak didn’t need to use qi reinforcement. He could have simply imbued his gauntlet with magic power and slowly overwhelmed Kim Hajin.

“…I guess it was Kim Hajin’s tactical victory. He still lost though.”

Oh Junhyuk scratched the back of his neck.
He wasn’t sure how to put it, because Kim Hajin surrendered a won fight.

“It does leave a bad aftertaste.”

Seo Youngji murmured with a frown. A picture of Kim Hajin was displayed on her laptop screen. She was writing a report.

“What, that he lost on purpose?”

“No, Kim Hajin put up a good fight, but I can understand his loss.”

“…Really?”

Oh Junhyuk looked at Kim Horak, who was still standing in the arena. He was being treated with an expression that could be both indignation and relief. No, it couldn’t be called treatment. Kim Horak simply drank a high-rank potion, and the bullets popped out of his muscles when he flexed.

“At first… no, from the start until the end, Kim Hajin overwhelmed him. His initial reaction speed and dynamic vision honestly surprised me. His firing speed was unbelievable too.”

“I agree. His firing speed was something else.”

“But after a certain point, he slowed down as much as Kim Horak slowed down, even though he only attacked without being hit. I think Kim Hajin can’t maintain that movement for long.”

Tak tak tak. Seo Youngji spoke as she continuously tapped on the laptop’s keyboard like a shorthand typist.

“And before Kim Hajin surrendered, he tried to finish off Kim Horak. I saw him pull the trigger but nothing came out. Kim Hajin’s face stiffened at that point, and he rummaged through his pockets without taking anything out.”

“So he used up his bullets.”

“Yep. But he didn’t try to fight Kim Horak, even though Kim Horak only had his left hand to work with. Why?”

“Because he wasn’t confident in winning?”

Seo Youngji lightly nodded.

“Right. He used up his bullets but he hadn’t won. Kim Horak only had a single arm left, but he could still fight. At that point, it was Kim Hajin’s loss.”

Oh Junhyuk took a deep breath. Then, he tilted his head.

“Oh right, how did he break Kim Horak’s qi reinforcement? He only used a single bullet to do it too. Twice, at that.”

“Right, that’s the problem. That’s why I said it left a bad aftertaste.”

Seo Youngji took off her glasses. As it looked like she was getting ready to explain things in depth, Oh Junhyuk swallowed his saliva.

“Most people, including you, probably missed it, but I saw the movement of magic power. It was stuck to his bullet.”

“…Is that possible? He’s only a cadet too!”

Mana was an extremely difficult power to control. Making it thin enough to coat a bullet and compressing it dense enough to destroy a qi reinforcement, that was something even Oh Junhyuk wasn’t confident in doing.

“I’m looking it up on the market to see if it’s a trick that uses an item or if it’s related to his Gift. If he used an item, it’s cheating. But if it’s his Gift… I don’t know what Gift it is, but it might be the first of its kind.”

Seeing Seo Youngji explaining seriously, Oh Junhyuk sighed.

“Huu… Anyways, I don’t like it. I thought Kim Horak was carrying out justice, but he was crushed.”

Kim Horak won, but it was a Pyrrhic victory.
In a one-on-one fight, warriors directly countered sharpshooters. Kim Horak should have been able to easily overwhelm Kim Hajin, but in reality, he was toyed by him. Not only would this incident become a trauma for him, guild scouts’ evaluation of him could also plummet. On the other hand, this cadet named Kim Hajin made his name known to the entire crowd. That, of course, included the many guild associates present.

—Yes, Kim Hajin. Never heard of him? Me neither, but he just fought with Kim Horak and he…

—He uses a gun. Yes, his limit should be clear, but he broke a qi reinforcement. Yes, it was an incomplete qi reinforcement, but just the fact that he broke it…

—I don’t know how he destroyed a qi reinforcement either. That’s why I’m calling you…

Guild associates were already making calls.

“Justice doesn’t always win. Plus, we don’t really know which side is on the side of justice.”

“…Yeah, yeah. Just keep writing your report. New talent discovered. That’s a nice title.”

At that moment, the host announced the next battle.
Seo Youngji glanced at the watch on her wrist.

“Kim Hajin, I’ll have to remember him. Let’s leave after we see Kim Suho’s match. It’s coming up in three fights.”

“Yeah, I planned on doing the same. …What is he complaining about?”

Oh Junhyuk gestured at the arena. The man, who was grinning at them just a moment ago, was now staring at the right passageway with killing intent. It was where Kim Hajin was.
Seo Youngji replied uninterested.

“…He must not have liked how the duel turned out. Everyone has their own taste.”

**


After the first duel, I used two of my own nominations. I picked two male cadets around the 300~400 rank. The duels started around 5 and ended around 8.

The fights were… strange comebacks.

Of course, I wasn’t at my best. Stigma’s magic power was slow to recover because I depleted it during my fight with Kim Horak, and I also couldn’t use Bullet Time, which was limited to once a day.
In addition, ‘swordsmen’ were just hard for me to deal with.

My first opponent, Kim Horak, had a bigger firing surface area because he used a gauntlet (though it was more like a fingerless glove).
And even with Kim Horak, if he didn’t try to cover his body with qi reinforcement, saved his magic power by covering only parts of his body, and slowly choked me out without trying to end the fight immediately…
I would have been completely helpless.
His carelessness was his downfall. He wanted to show the scouts too much. He also might have been aiming for the ‘quickest victory’ record.

But unlike Kim Horak, the other two opponents slowly closed in on me. They blocked my bullets with their long-reach swords and dragged the fight out without charging towards me. It was a real hassle since I couldn’t approach them.

But in the end, I managed to claim victory in both duels. It was all thanks to luck.

The first opponent lost to a lucky ricochet.
The bullet I accidentally fired on the ground bounced off and struck his armpit. The opponent dropped his sword from the unexpected pain and instantly surrendered.

The second opponent lost to his own mistake.
This battle was a drawn-out battle lasting 30 minutes. During this time, the opponent sweated too much from continuously blocking my bullets, and the sweat pooled up to a puddle. Right before the referee announced a draw, he charged towards me while I was reloading my gun. Then, he slipped on his own sweat.
Hoiiik—!
I still remembered his scream.

“God, that guy was just too funny.”

I giggled and lied down on my bed.
The final result was 2 wins 1 loss.
As sharpshooters gained bonus points for fighting close ranged warriors, I no longer had to worry about being held back.

“Auuu~”

I stretched and looked out the window.
It was deep into the night. The darkness concealed the world like a thick curtain, and the moon, which was the only source of light, was faint and pale. The eerie outside scenery brought an unfounded anxiety.

“…I hope everything will be okay.”

I suddenly thought of the Chameleon Troupe. I saw them at the arena. Not only was the boss of the Chameleon Troupe here, ‘that guy’ was also here as I expected.
The monster with the instincts of a savage beast, completely obsessed with the pursuit of strength.
If things went according to the original story, he should have felt Kim Suho and Shin Jonghak’s potential and returned peacefully after promising to fight them in the future.
But that wasn’t the case now.
Cube was currently filled with people he wanted to fight ‘immediately’.

“Well, it’s not like I can do anything about it.”

All he needed to do was breath heavily for my head to explode.

“Hm…”

My wandering gaze landed on the corner of my bed.
The gift Park Soohyuk gave me was there. He sent a rather expensive gift as gratitude for his first investor.

“A drone…”

It was a fist-sized drone with a camera.

**


A chilling wind brushed against leaves, creating a bleak melody.
In one of Cube’s artificial forests, a man was sitting on a tree trunk. He was in the middle of pitch-black darkness, but his bulky body could be seen easily. The formal suit he was wearing made him especially eye-catching.

“He wasn’t much by my standard.”

The man murmured in a low voice.

—By your standard?

“Yep, he’s a mouse by my standard. I don’t like him, a tiny guy only shooting from a faraway distance.”

—You mean you don’t like his battle style… Whew, you were supposed to find out why Boss is interested in him.

“How should I know?”

The man’s voice turned hostile.

—What are you getting mad for?

“You would understand if you saw that little rat’s fight. Rats like him… I need to pop off their heads…”

The man’s eyes were already bloodshot.
The duels he saw between rookies made his blood boil. He wanted to jump in and show them what a real fight was. Though he barely held in this urge, his instincts were constantly contending with his reason.

—What about Kim Suho and Shin Jonghak?

“Mm… I think they were okay… Maybe not…”

—Make up your mind.

“They were fine. Happy? I want to wait until they grow up to fight.”

At that moment…

“Who are you?”

A voice rang out from behind him. The man turned around. It was a police officer who was deployed for the combat exams. The man didn’t notice him because he was a weakling who hasn’t even learned magic power.

—Don’t forget why Boss brought you.

At these words, the man nodded.

“Yeah… I know. I’m a master when it comes to recognizing the strong.”

—Right, that’s the only reason.

“Excuse me, what are you doing here? The forest is off-limits to outsiders. Please come out.”

The police officer approached the man with a flashlight. The man stared at him with scorn. The killing intent in his eyes radiated a clear warning.
But the officer couldn’t see the man’s expression in the dark, walking closer towards him.

“Oh right, how did you get in here in the first place? Sir? Come out!”

The man laughed.

“…Hey.”

—What.

“I’ll go after I crack open a nut.”

“Sir, stop talking to yourself and come out!”

Immediately afterward, the man’s fist cut through the air. To be exact, he punched the air, causing a shockwave that ravaged the officer. Crushed by the pressure, the officer’s body no longer resembled a human body.

—Did you do it?

“Yep.”

—…Boss is going to kill you.

“Keep it a secret.”

—I will until she finds out. For now, go do your job.

Thanks to the weakling, the man felt like his mind cleared up slightly. He stood up and began to walk. The dorms were only a few minutes away…
After a while, his keen hearing picked up on faint voices.

—Hey, what is this?

—Ueeek. Fuck, this is a corpse! Contact the headquarters!

He turned around. Far off in the distance, he could see two officers vomiting. A grin emerged on his face.
Wiing— Wiing—

“Mm?”

Hearing the sound of a mosquito buzzing, he turned back to his front.

—What?

“…Nothing, just a mosquito.”

—How lame. Hurry up before I tell Boss that you killed someone.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m going.”

The man quickened his pace.

A tiny drone hovering above him silently watched the man leave before disappearing.

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