Chapter 51. Change of Heart (1)


—So this is that ancient artifact…

The ring was snatched by the Evil Society’s Djinn. Now that it was in their hands, the chances of Yun Seung-Ah or Kim Suho taking it back were grim.
I had no other choice. Even if I had to attract the Djinns’ attention, I had to make my move.

I compressed a portion of Aether around my hand, weaving it into a wire.
As Aether changed its form according to its owner’s will, it was both with and without form at the same time.
The only problem was that the wire wasn’t long. In fact, it was short enough to fit in one hand. But when I threw this ‘Aether wire’, it would elongate accordingly.

That said, the wire was still unlikely to reach the castle. Although ‘throwing’ was included in the scope of Master Sharpshooter, I didn’t have the strength to fuel the throw.

Thankfully, I could use Stigma’s magic power to make up for what my physical body lacked.

I concentrated magic power on my right arm. The two streaks of Stigma I had radiated an intense light. There was no need to go easy. I poured 80% of my remaining magic power and converted it into kinetic energy.
My strength remained the same. Stigma’s magic power only amplified the kinetic energy. It didn’t increase my physical ability. Thus, I didn’t know how powerful my throw would be. I only knew that it would be more powerful than Kim Horak.

“Huap!”

I threw the wire with a spirited shout.
My target was Homer’s Ring, which was being held by the Djinn.
In an instant, the short dagger-length wire elongated immensely, moving like it was alive and snatching its target. Immediately afterward, I pulled the wire back.

Whoosh—
The wire shot back in the blink of an eye and fell into my hand.

As expected of an ancient artifact, there wasn’t even a scratch on the ring.

“Nice shot.”

At first, I smiled in satisfaction, but my smile quickly disappeared.
It was because of the wire’s unexpected destructive power.
To make the wire reach the castle, I had no choice but to throw it in an arc. Because of it, the wire didn’t only snatch the ring. During the process, it severed a portion of the castle’s walls, and on its way back, it swept through the floor, slicing apart the foundational base of the castle.

As a result, part of the castle’s second floor crumbled down.

I watched the unexpected scenery in a daze.
Although I didn’t intend for this to happen, my heart immediately dropped a beat. I hoped no one was hurt by my carelessness.
However, I didn’t have time to worry about others.
The Evil Society’s Djinn was looking at me directly. It was extremely unlikely that he could see through my mask, but I knew I had to leave as quickly as possible.
I began to run using the escape route I prepared beforehand.

“OY!”

When I was hurriedly plowing through tall grass, someone shot down from the sky in front of me. It was a Djinn who looked like a Caucasian man. Blocking the path in front me, he glared with killing intent.

“You see this, right?”

He tapped on his waist, where a bladeless hilt of a dagger was hanging.
I knew what it was – a magic sword.
It was a weapon created using state-of-the-art magic engineering technique. This weapon was often used by people who were confident in their magic power. As long as one’s magic power capacity was large enough, it would display greater power than most low-rank artifacts.
Now, it just so happened that an exponential increase in magic power was the most basic benefit someone gained from becoming a Djinn.

“If you know what this is, you better hand that thing over.”

Without waiting for my answer, he pulled out his magic sword. He looked a bit funny holding just a sword hilt, but a magic sword’s might wasn’t something to scoff at, especially for my current self.

“Um, why don’t we talk it out? I can just give it to you.”

“Why should I? I can just kill you and take it.”

“But weren’t you talking like you wanted to negotiate just now?”

“Was I?”

The Djinn sneered and imbued his magic sword with magic power.
Wiing—
Just like a lightsaber, a blade of magic power shot up from the hilt. But that only lasted for a second. The sword’s blade flickered, then disappeared.

“…What?”

Confused, he imbued his magic power again, but nothing changed. Just like a lightbulb that exhausted its energy, the magic power blade flickered and disappeared.
I immediately realized what was going on.

“Hahaha. Hahaha.”

With a hearty laugh, I transformed Desert Eagle into the shotgun mode.

“W-What’s wrong with this thing…!”

Flustered, the Djinn swung his sword hilt aimlessly, but there was no way that a state-of-the-art weapon would fix itself by being swung.

“Well, you see, that weapon won’t work today.”

I scraped together what little magic power I had left and converted it to the magic power of light. This white magic power would flow into the shotgun shell and obliterate the Djinn.

“Because I’m very lucky.”

“…Shut it! Even without a weapon—”

KWANG.
The shotgun shell perfectly struck his head.

**


On the other hand, Chae Nayun was sitting on a bench near the traveling club’s meeting place.
She had long since given up on finding the masquerade party. It was already 7 P.M., but Yoo Yeonha and Kim Suho were nowhere to be seen.

“…Tsk.”

She wasn’t bothered that they were missing, but for some reason, she felt anxious. But because she didn’t know why she was feeling anxious, she was killing time playing a game.

[Leveling-up Monster]

It was an RPG game that came out only a few days ago. It wasn’t a VR game, but a mobile game, making it convenient to play on her smartwatch. But it wasn’t fun. It was pretty interesting at first, but her thoughts kept wandering. Just what were they doing at the masquerade party that they weren’t picking up her call?

“…Where are all these police going?”

Because siren noises constantly rang out, she couldn’t focus on the game either.
In the end, Chae Nayun turned it off and checked her messenger app. No new messages had arrived.

“Haa.”

‘I’m upset, but why am I upset?’
When Chae Nayun was sighing in annoyance, someone sat down next to her.
Chae Nayun turned her head to that direction.

“…What’s up with you?”

It was Kim Hajin, but his face was pale and he was covered in cold sweat. Clearly, he was exhausted.

“Are you sick?”

Chae Nayun asked out of courtesy. Then, Kim Hajin stared at her silently.

“…What? Answer me.”

“I’m a bit tired.”

“What?”

“Well… I can’t move my body.”

Kim Hajin smirked. Then, he suddenly closed his eyes and leaned on Chae Nayun.

“Whoa!”

Chae Nayun quickly moved out of the way, afraid that his sweat would touch her. Consequently, Kim Hajin fell down on the bench.

“H-Hey! What are you scheming—”

“Ah, Nayun-ssi. You’re here.”

At that moment, Oh Hanhyun arrived with his girlfriend. His face was grim.

“Club leader? Why are you so late?”

“So you didn’t know. Something happened nearby. Kim Suho-ssi and Yoo Yeonha-ssi are being questioned.”

“Eh?”

Chae Nayun’s jaws dropped. She thought, ‘just what the hell happened while I was gone?’

“Ah, it’s nothing serious. They weren’t injured, and since their identities are clear, they’ll be released soon.”

With that, Oh Hanhyun glanced at the bench, where Kim Hajin was panting.

“…What happened to him?”

“I don’t know. He came here just now and suddenly collapsed.”

“Hmm.”

Oh Hanhyun approached him and placed his hand on his forehead.
It was hot.

“Babe, can you take a look at him?”

“…Babe?”

Chae Nayun grimaced. Oh Hanhyun smiled somewhat embarrassedly, then the ‘babe’ standing next to him stepped up.

“I introduced her before, right? She’s my girlfriend, Natasha.”

“Ah… Yeah, um, that’s a pretty name.”

**


Father’s face suddenly popped up. His black hair carried a few strands of grey.
It was a face from 8 years ago, or perhaps even longer before.
It was the once in a lifetime trial and task that every high school senior in Korea had to face – the College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT).
I had bombed the test magnificently.
I must have expected it before I even took the exam, as I told my parents, who insisted on coming to pick me up, to stay home.
Mom and Dad said yes and returned home.
After the exam ended, I trudged to the school gate. It was then that I saw him.

—Hajin.

Father was looking at me with a warm smile. Riding the same car he had used for 10 years, he was looking at me with an aged face.
I immediately broke out into tears because I felt sorry.
Father had never once consoled me before, but on that day, he patted my back and said just two words.

—It’s okay.

“…Is he okay?”

The voice that overlapped with Father’s must be Chae Nayun’s.
I opened my eyes.

“Ah, he just woke up. Eh? He’s crying?”

Chae Nayun pointed at me as she snickered. I raised my hand and touched my eyes. It was wet.

“Did it hurt that much? What, did you catch an illness?”

“…”

Annoyed, I glared at Chae Nayun. Was it because of the dream? I didn’t feel too good.

“W-What?”

“…Just get back.”

Thankfully, Kim Suho pulled Chae Nayun away from me.
I raised my head and looked out the window. It was already dark outside.

“Are you okay?”

A Caucasian woman asked as she looked down at me. It was probably Oh Hanhyun’s girlfriend.

“Yes, I’m okay…”

“You collapsed from light exhaustion.”

I nodded. It would have been weird if I were fine. I had instantly used up two streaks of Stigma and had even raced to the Eiffel Tower like a madman. Not to mention, I took the most roundabout way to avoid people’s gazes.

“Where are we?”

“It’s your room. You’ll be sharing it with Kim Suho-ssi.”

The woman’s voice was soft and gentle, making me trust her instinctively.
…This was why you couldn’t judge a book by its cover.

“The large mansion that’s supposed to be our lodging?”

“Yes, that’s right. It’s already 10 at night. They said they would prepare dinner if you want.”

10 at night.
Thankfully, I managed to wake up before the incident broke out.

“No, I’m fine.”

I turned down the offer for a late dinner, and the woman nodded with a smile.

“Then I’ll be going. Come with me, Nayun-ssi.”

“Eh? Why me?”

“This is the men’s room.”

After packing up a thermometer and an icepack, the woman left the room with Chae Nayun.
Only then did I have time to look around the room.
It was a fairly large room with two beds and plenty of antique furniture.
So I would be sharing this room with Kim Suho....

“Are you feeling better?”

Kim Suho asked. I turned my wandering eyes to Kim Suho. He was wearing a gentle smile.

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

“I’m glad.”

“…”

It was… awkward.
Without saying anything else, I was about to lie down on the bed when I suddenly recalled what happened just a few hours ago.
I wanted to ask Kim Suho about what I missed, but I had to calm myself first. I was the one who destroyed the castle. As the perpetrator, I had to be careful about what I said.

I picked up my smartwatch, which sat on a shelf next to the bed. I immediately looked up the news.

[Djinn appears in a Paris castle! Cube’s cadets coincidentally present…]

Perhaps because Cube’s cadets were involved, the news spread fast.
I read through the entire report.
Thankfully, no one was killed or critically injured. It was also reported that Djinns had demolished the castle.

Fantastic.

It seemed Jain managed to get away as nothing about her was written on the report.
I swallowed the sense of relief rising from the depths of my heart.

“Hey.”

“Hm?”

I projected the report I was reading so Kim Suho could see. Clearly, I was asking him if he knew anything about it.

“Oh, that?”

He took the bait instantly.

“I can’t tell you anything in detail, but nothing major happened. The Djinns all ran away before the Heroes arrived too.”

“Mm, that’s a relief.”

With that, silence descended once again. Kim Suho must have been bored as he cut an apple and gave it to me. I took it without saying anything.

Crunch, crunch.
Tick, tock.
The sound of me biting the apple and a ticking clock filled the room.
A bleak wind swept against the window.
Feeling uncomfortable by the awkward atmosphere, I looked out the window. The moon was hiding behind clouds.

Currently, it was 10:15.

In just 2 hours, ‘that incident’ would occur.

“…Hm.”

But it seemed Kim Suho had no plans to leave the chair by my bed. I glanced at him uncomfortably. Then, I discovered a faint scar on his cheek. It was likely from when he stopped Yun Seung-Ah’s attack.

“…Take care of your body more.”

“Huh?”

Kim Suho sounded confused. I pointed at the scar on his cheek.

“You’re the main character. You can’t get too hurt.”

Kim Suho was the main character, the one I created myself. But today, he charged at Yun Seung-Ah fearlessly. In other words, he was almost killed.
Yun Seung-Ah’s killing intent was real. If the Djinn appeared a little bit later, Kim Suho might have lost a limb.
Of course, I understood why he did what he did. After all, he was the main character who walked on the path of righteousness.

However, I had doubts.
Whether the main character who only pursued righteousness could end this story, whether he could overcome this twisted story with only his sense of justice.
And…
Whether he could send me home.

“Main character? There is no such thing.”

Kim Suho shook his head. He must have heard these words before from people who mocked him sarcastically. I remembered it too.
—Does he think he’s some sort of a main character?
Shin Jonghak often liked to say this.

“…Really?”

“Of course. If I’m a main character, you’re one too. No, everyone in this world is a main character.”

The main character said so.
What he must have said thoughtlessly touched me in a meaningful way. I pondered over his words silently.

“…By the way.”

At that moment, Kim Suho, who was staring at me fixedly, carefully spoke up. He seemed to be hesitating. Considering how needlessly nervous he was, this must be what he really wanted to ask me.

“Go on, tell me.”

“…The report you wrote for Chae Nayun, I saw it too. You were a bit harsh.”

For the record, the report I wrote on Chae Nayun received an A-. Although my criticisms were valid, me telling her to give up on the bow was deemed too harsh, dropping the grade from an A+ to an A-.

“I wasn’t harsh. Chae Nayun isn’t a borne archer. She needs to drop the bow and pick up the sword.”

“…Is that why you made that bet with Chae Nayun?”

“Yeah. If I win, I’m going to make her give up her bow. She said she’d do anything.”

At my determined reply, Kim Suho’s expression stiffened.

“But it’s the path she chose. I don’t think it’s something someone else should decide for her.”

He was both stern and soft at the same time.
I stared at him, and he stared back at me. His eyes were shining brightly with his own will.
His thoughts were different than mine.
But that didn’t mean he was wrong.

“…Then do you want me to encourage and console her, fully knowing that she’s walking to a dead-end?”

“No, that’s not what I—”

Without giving a chance for a rebuttal, I continued.

“You can’t succeed just by hearing encouraging words. What if you reach a dead-end after endlessly toiling away? What if the only thing waiting at the end is a greater despair? Will you take responsibility?”

When I finished, Kim Suho let out a sigh. His breath was full of heat. He then spoke in a low voice as though he was angry.

“How can you be so sure that Chae Nayun isn’t talented with bows, but swords? Are you saying all this because you can take responsibility?”

In Kim Suho’s perspective, what he said was completely justified. Chae Nayun had trained for countless hours using the bow, but someone who seemingly wasn’t close to her was telling her to give it up.
But I was angry.
Chae Nayun was someone I created with affection.
Her appearance, her personality, and even her tiniest hobbies and trauma were my creation. Of course, a few things had changed, but still…

“…I’ve been thinking about her for far longer than you… And I’ve been watching over her all this time.”

Even if Kim Suho was this world’s main character, there was no one else in this entire world who knew Chae Nayun better than me.

“So I know far more about her than you.”

“…What?”

A strange light flickered in Kim Suho’s eyes.
When we were staring at each other in silence…

—Thud

Both Kim Suho and I heard a faint sound coming from the other side of the door.
I immediately looked through the wall.

The person running away with a flushed face… was Chae Nayun.
I didn’t know from when, but she must have been eavesdropping on our conversation.
A good archer needed to be skilled in ‘stealth’.
If anything, she learned that one thing well.

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FudgeNouget's Thoughts

Double bonus chapter, mainly as a big thank you to all the sponsors!

We're also at the 50 chapter mark (a tiny milestone).

And of course, thank you to all the other readers as well.

And thank you to all the commenters (love all your comments, and I read through them all!); thank you to the people who frequently point out any errors in the chapters, and everyone who shares/supports the novel through word of mouth!