Chapter 42. Sudden Encounter (2)

“Oh no, I’m so sorry.”

The nameless person apologized in shock. The Chameleon Troupe’s boss seemed just as shocked as she remained completely still. First, I took the soda cup off of her head. The ice cubes sitting on her head immediately drizzled down, and Boss shut her eyes close.

“Please wait just one minute. I’ll go get a towel…”

But at that momenet, the nameless person suddenly froze. His eyes turned lifeless and he began to walk out in a strange zombie-like manner.
I glanced at Boss’ neck on which a faint light was glimmering. It seemed what just happened was her necklace's ability. That necklace… I felt like I knew it, but I couldn’t quite remember it. I wasn’t too keen on item settings.

“Haa.”

She suddenly let out a deep sigh. Then, she turned towards me.
I scratched my neck.
I had a tiny pack of tissues in my pocket, but it was nowhere near enough to take care of the mess on her head and clothes.

“…”

But because her eyes were fixed on me, I took out the tissues.

“Um, you can use this…”

She looked back and forth between me and the pack of tissues. She then grabbed the tissues and wiped her face, legs, and arms.

“Thank you.”

Then, she gave a light bow and thanked me. I fell into a daze momentarily. What just happened?
At that moment, the host’s loud voice resounded.

—We are now starting!

The crowd cheered loudly. A countless number of reporters aimed their cameras at the arena. Although they weren’t allowed to film the duels, they were allowed to take pictures. The reporters from England were especially excited.

—Duel between rank 3 Rachel and rank 4 Chae Nayun!

A battle between a rapier and a bow.
This was something that happened in the original story. In other words, I already knew who would win - Rachel.

I stared at Rachel and Chae Nayun standing on the arena. Though they were far away, I could see them as though they were only a couple feet away. Chae Nayun’s mouth moved. I could hear what she was saying.

—Princess, our rank will be changing today.

Rachel didn’t react to Chae Nayun’s provocation.

—Beginning countdown! Three! Two!

Chae Nayun aimed her bow at Rachel, and Rachel held up her rapier.
Facing each other, neither side had even the tiniest imbalance in their postures. Waiting for the start signal, they concealed their openings while searching for their opponent’s openings.

—Start!

Chae Nayun fired her arrow immediately. Her magic arrow flew out at lightning speed. However, Rachel skirted past the arrow by a hair’s breadth with refined, efficient movements.

Chae Nayun continued with a barrage of arrows. When the arrows raining down from the sky hit the ground, they split into several offshoots and took on unpredictable paths. It seemed this was the plan Chae Nayun made for this fight. Since Rachel would just dodge her arrows if she shot at her directly, Chae Nayun was trying to box her in.

However, Rachel dodged the terrifying barrage of arrows elegantly. Not only that, but she didn’t hesitate to stab with her rapier when given the chance. The magic power from her attacks shot towards Chae Nayun like beams of light. Even so, Chae Nayun didn’t dodge them. Instead, she emitted magic power in the form of a shield to block them.

Immediately, the crowd erupted into cheers and applause. Chae Nayun’s magic power control had already surpassed the level of a cadet.

However, the outcome of this fierce battle was predetermined. Chae Nayun couldn’t win against Rachel.

Rachel was a swordsman specialized in receiving long ranged attacks. Her slender and flexible body could dodge arrows with the slightest movement, and her attacks of delicate magic power continuously disrupted an archer’s posture. Chae Nayun created a shield to prevent her posture from becoming unstable, but this method was too costly in magic power.

The moment Chae Nayun’s magic power ran out, it would be Rachel’s victory.

“I saw your duel against Kim Horak.”

At that moment, a voice suddenly rang out from next to me.
Startled, I jolted slightly.
Because I was too focused on Chae Nayun and Rachel’s duel, I had forgotten who was sitting next to me. It was incredibly foolish, considering she was currently far more important than Rachel or Chae Nayun.

“Um, thank you.”

I replied as calmly as possible.
She asked while staring at me.

“Was that your Gift?”

“…I’m sorry, but that’s not something that I can reveal so easily.”

“…”

She took out a business card from her pocket.

“This is who I am.”

She gave me the business card.

[Li Xiaopeng]
[Desolate Moon’s grade 3 Hero]
[Contact address: 0103-3243-9203-93]

This was likely one of her many fake identities. Even so, my heart trembled as very few people had way of contacting her. In order to not make it obvious, I simply smiled and muttered.

“It’s illegal to scout cadets in advance.”

“…”

She tried to put away her business card.

“Ah, but…”

I grabbed her wrist. As I thought, she didn’t know about playing hard to get.

“I’ll hold onto yours.”

“…”

She nodded and gave me her business card.

“I’ll leave now. Contact us whenever you want.”

With that, she got up. As she walked out, I stared at her back in a daze.

“…What did she come here for?”

I couldn’t understand. No matter how much I thought about it, there shouldn’t have been any reason for her to visit me at this point.

**


All duels ended by 5 P.M.
Kim Suho, Shin Jonghak, Rachel, and a cadet named Joo Youngho were the only ones to win all their duels. Because cadets could fight up to three times a day, many unexpected outcomes had occurred due to one side being tired.

—Wow, that was amazing. Did you see Kim Suho? How stylish can he get?

—Chae Nayun lost to Rachel… I’m a bit bitter. This is the first time I’ve seen Korea’s rising star losing to a foreigner.

By the time I left the arena, the sky had already turned dark. Many spectators brushed past me as they reflected on today’s battles.
Before I returned to the dorm, I first went into an alleyway in the back of the arena. After sitting down in a random spot, I took out the drone I placed in my cross bag.
This drone was quite different than the original, as I added several settings like battery life boost, stealth mode, and target lock-on. These changes would last for four days, which was when the Chameleon Troupe would leave. Consequently, the modification was relatively cheap in SP.

“Fly.”

I threw the drone into the air. The drone flew into the forest, and I got up to head back to the dorm.

—…kuk, huk… kuk

“…Huh?”

But a sudden crying sound made me stop. It sounded a bit like an animal crying, but it was also pitiful enough to make me turn to its direction. My eyes broke through several walls in the path, and in a nearby forest close to the back of the arena, I saw someone hiding between trees and crying.
It was Chae Nayun. Her body was shaking and her face was buried between her knees.

“Ah.”

This event, I remembered it.
It was the when Chae Nayun would completely fall for Kim Suho. Soon, he would come to console Chae Nayun on her defeat, and with everything else that should have happened between them, Chae Nayun would come to see Kim Suho as not just a friend. Although things had changed slightly from the original story, it seemed the big picture remained the same.

I turned back without much thought.

“…Tsk.”

But I hesitated to leave.
Kim Suho would console Chae Nayun, but his kindness would only comfort her.
“You can do better next time,” “Work hard with me,” “I will help you get stronger”… Such words wouldn’t really help Chae Nayun.
In life, it was sometimes better to give up rather than continuing to work hard. But there was no such thing as giving up in Kim Suho’s dictionary. He never gave up on anything and never suggested others to give up.
Because of Kim Suho, Chae Nayun wouldn’t give up on using a bow for a long time.

“…Huu.”

In the end, I turned on my smartwatch.
The message Chae Nayun sent me last night was there.

[Hey, don’t ignore me. If you don’t reply, I’ll nominate you for real.]

I gave her an 18-hour late reply.

[What are you doing?]

Through the walls, I could see Chae Nayun’s smartwatch ring. But because she was crying, she didn’t check her smartwatch. I sent her another message.

[I saw your duel today.]

Chae Nayun then glanced at her smartwatch.

—…What does this bastard want now?

It seemed she was planning on ignoring my messages. I didn’t have any other choice. I sent her a message she couldn’t ignore.

[See, I told you. You’re more suited to a sword than a bow. It’s not too late to change your weapon. I did too.]

—This son of a…

It was incredibly effective. Fuming, Chae Nayun tapped on her smartwatch.

[Screw off before I kill you.]

The reply I sent back immediately was enough to drive her over the edge.

[Come on, you defeated a Djinn with a sword, so why do you insist on using a bow? I just can’t understand. It’s almost… pitiful. If you fought Rachel like how you fought that Djinn, do you think you would have lost?]

[What? You wanna die?]

[Think a little. You beat her when you were in Agent Military Academy, so why do you think you’re losing now? It’s because you don’t have the aptitude for bows.]

[What you piece of shit where are you do I look like a pushover you bastard don’t be so arrogant just because you beat Kim Horak]

Her emotional message was hardly readable because of punctuation errors. I didn’t even read it all. I didn’t reply to her either. I wanted to mess with her a bit more because her reaction was funny, but unfortunately, it was time.

—Huh? Chae Nayun?

Kim Suho peeked his head behind the tree, where Chae Nayun was hiding.

—…Eh?

—What are you doing here?

—W…What!

Chae Nayun quickly wiped off her tears. She then tried to run, but Kim Suho caught her.

—Let me go!

Chae Nayun tried to shake him off, but Kim Suho wasn’t the type of person who would leave a crying girl be. He had a typical main character personality. Consoling a crying girl was almost in his instincts.

“…It’s time to go.”

I didn’t stay behind to watch what would happen between them.
Making sure that Chae Nayun didn’t forget about her real Gift, that was the extent of my role.

**


Wednesday.
The next combat exam began. As cadets had to fight monsters in this exam, ordinary people were prohibited from spectating. Furthermore, because magicians’ summoned monsters were of varying types and power. the exam was graded on an absolute scale rather than a relative scale.

“Be especially careful in today’s exam. If you refuse to give up, you might really end up dying.”

Kim Soohyuk gave a solemn warning. Just like he said, summoned monsters were dangerous. Even though they were summoned by magicians, they were unable to comprehend complex orders.
“Annihilate enemies and protect allies,” that was the extent of the order they could understand. An order like “test that cadet’s skill” was out of the question.
Not to mention, summoned monsters didn’t just disappear into thin air when magicians reverse summoned them, so cadets had to be on their toes even after surrendering.

“If you think your life is in danger, give up immediately. You can yell ‘I surrender’ or simply tap on the ground twice.”

“…”

I stood still and calmly listened to Kim Soohyuk’s explanation. Chae Nayun was glaring at me from the side, but I ignored her.

“Magicians in charge of the exam will give the rest of the explanation. Give them a warm welcome.”

The door opened and robed magicians walked in.
Summoner magicians weren't given any special treatment. The Magician’s Tower had a strict hierarchy among magicians depending on their specialty, and summoner magicians were nothing more and nothing less than average. And because summoner magicians often worked outside of the Magician’s Tower, they didn’t have twisted personalities like most magicians.

“Nice to meet you all. I am the Chief Magician, Jin Joohwa.”

The leader of the magicians bowed to the cadets.

“Today, you will fight monsters we will summon. But be careful, summoned monsters are no different from real monsters. Even if we reverse summon them, they won’t disappear immediately like in games. So if things look dangerous, surrender immediately.”

The cadets nodded at the magician’s kind explanation.

“Good. Then we will tell you how the exam will proceed.”

Jin Joohwa smiled brightly.

“Four cadets will go in at a time, and each cadet will be given 15 minutes. You will not be graded based on victory or loss, and your fighting role will obviously be taken into account.”

Jin Joohwa stuck up his index finger.

“First is how long you last. Next is how calm you responded. In other words, you don’t have to try to kill the summoned monster.”

Wiing—

A smartwatch’s faint vibration cut him off mid-sentence.
The magician looked around the room.

“Please turn off all smartwatches.”

He spoke nonchalantly.
We also nonchalantly turned off our smartwatches.

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FudgeNouget's Thoughts

Edit: Lee Xiaopeng changed to Li Xiaopeng