Chapter 53. Vestige (1)


Evil Society was one of the most notorious Djinn associations in the world, being officially recognized by the UN and the Hero Association as the number 1 wanted group. Although there were groups that were more vicious and wicked than Evil Society, the latter was just too widely known throughout the world.
But that didn’t mean that someone purposely spread their name. Their notoriety was the result of their evil doings. They caused countless incidents in countries all over the world. From the Artifact Scramble incident in China to the Suwon Battle in Korea, they participated in human-Djinn wars of every scale.

“Say that again.”

Evil Society’s hideout was surprisingly not far away.
In an artificial cave under Russia’s Vladivostok waters was the hideout Evil Society has kept secret for over 40 years. As the years went by, the technological advances made the cave a state-of-the-art facility that looked nothing like a cave.

“My apologies.”

“No, don’t apologize. I said to say that again, Silasen. You said… a cheetah messed with our plan?”

“No, it was a panther. Um, a man wearing a panther mask.”

Artifact retrieval was Evil Society’s first and foremost task. In the first place, they were an organization formed by devils to steal artifacts.
Homer’s Ring was the artifact that Kim Hakpyo, Evil Society’s artifact retrieval team leader, desperately wanted.
This ring of wisdom amplified all abilities related to magic power, such as magic power control, adaptability, and materialization. It was an incredibly useful artifact for Djinns who had abnormally high amounts of magic power.

“You mean a panther that looks like this?”

Kim Hakpyo showed a sketch of the masked man depicted according to Silasen’s description.

“…Yes. He wasn’t an ordinary individual.”

“I know. I heard you lost a subordinate.”

“Yes, we lost Sidius. From what we observed from his life clock, he seems to have been killed in one blow.”

“…”

Sidius. Although he had a weak defense, because of his superb swordsmanship, his attack power was something even Kim Hakpyo acknowledged. He was supposed to be capable of handling up to low-intermediate rank Heroes, making him one of the organization’s rising stars.

“He wasn’t a Djinn?”

It was surprisingly common for Djinns to kill each other.

“No, but he didn’t seem to be a Hero either.”

“Then he must be a mercenary or a hunter. Look into it. Of course, don’t think about confronting him alone even if you find him.”

Homer’s Ring was something Kim Hakpyo vowed to obtain when he heard about it from the Collector. And when it came to his vows, he had no intention of breaking them.

“His weapon?”

“Yes?”

“Sidius’ magic sword, it’s expensive. Did you retrieve it?”

“Ah… no.”

Magic swords were created by humanity but could display the same power as an artifact depending on one’s magic power. Naturally, it was extremely costly. Low-rank artifacts went for 500 million won, and naturally, so did magic swords.

“I see. That makes sense. Someone who knew to take the ring wouldn’t have missed something that expensive.”

Kim Hakpyo accepted the reality. Only a fool wouldn’t take 500 million won lying on the ground.
His anger then turned to Silasen.

“By the way, why are you announcing to the world that you’re a Djinn?”

“…Yes?”

“Your god damn appearance.”

Kim Hakpyo pointed at Silasen, who was still maintaining a Djinn’s black skin and blood-red pupils.

“I’m asking WHY you’re revealing that you’re a GOD DAMN DJINN!”

Kim Hakpyo’s fury resounded, shaking the cave’s interior. Silasen quickly turned back to normal.

“M-My apologies!”

In truth, he had just made an honest mistake of forgetting to put his disguise back on. After Devil Transformation, Djinns looked completely different from humans, so they had to put on a disguise to hide that they were Djinns.
However, the Djinns’ society wasn’t so lenient when it came to mistakes.
Silasen fell to his knees in a hurry.

**


“…What am I supposed to do with this?”

Sunday night.
I pondered as I examined the magic sword I picked up. It was a spoil of war I obtained from defeating a Djinn, but it was completely useless to me. Not only was I unable to wield magic power like normal people, I also didn’t have plans to use a sword which required me to fight in close range.
Of course, I would be able to sell it for a vast amount of money, but even if Violet Banquet guaranteed my anonymity, I felt uneasy about a Djinn buying it.
So for now, I put the magic sword away in my drawer.

“And what do I do with this?”

This time, it was Homer’s Ring. Because it hasn’t been awakened yet, it looked shabby as though it was forged with mud, but in reality, this ring was quite a unique artifact.

===
[Homer’s Ring] [Artifact] [Unawakened]
A ring worn by Homer in the past.
Contains hidden abilities.
===

Awakening this artifact would be easy for a Djinn, but it was a bit tricky for me. Thankfully, I didn’t need to use the normal method for awakening this artifact.
Using my Setting Intervention, I just deleted the “un-” part of “unawakened”.

[49 SP will be used.]

It didn’t require too much SP, likely because the method for awakening the ring was rather simple. You just had to put in a certain amount of magic power, probably about 1.5 times the amount Chae Nayun currently had.

Once I saved the setting, the surface of Homer’s Ring cracked and split. A beautiful platinum colored ring appeared from beneath the dirt husk.

===
[Homer’s Ring] [Artifact] [Awakened]
A ring worn by Homer in the past.
Resonates with nature and endows its wearer with clear energy.
「Intelligence Increase – increases the wearer’s intelligence by 0.001 points every 24 hours up to a maximum of 0.365 points.」
「High rank magic power amplification」
「Camouflage」
===

Homer’s Ring not only amplified its wearer’s magic power, it also increased ‘intelligence’, an invariable stat. Since the intelligence increase had a limit, one only needed to wear it for a year to receive its maximum benefit. 0.365 points of intelligence was equivalent to about 7 IQ.

“I guess I need to hold onto it for at least a year.”

Homer’s Ring wasn’t a binding item. If I gave it away after increasing my intelligence for 365 days, the intelligence I gained from it wouldn’t disappear.

At the same time, it was inefficient for me to continue holding onto it. The source of my magic power wasn’t Kim Hajin, but the Stigma drawn on my upper arm. Obviously, there was no way to equip the Stigma with the ring.
…But just in case, I tried rubbing the ring on my upper arm.

“…What am I doing.”

I put it back on my finger.
Homer’s Ring better suited Kim Suho and Chae Nayun. Purely in terms of efficiency, Chae Nayun was the best candidate as she beat Kim Suho in magic power.

“Now…”

For the first time in some time, I checked my stats.

===
[Strength 2.56]
[Stamina 2.575]
[Speed 3.250]
[Perception 4.215]
[Vitality 2.665]
[Magic power 1.925]
===

The stats other than speed and perception had stopped growing.
I had reached a wall. A wall referred to a bottleneck in growth. The first wall was between 2 and 3, the next was between 4 and 5, the next was between 6 and 7, and so on.
Most people faced these walls on every 2 stat points, and cadets usually had their upper limit around the 12 to 13 area.

“My magic power isn’t going up at all.”

It was likely that my magic power would stay at that level forever, but that didn’t discourage me in any way. After all, my magic power came from my Stigma.
Next, I saw some encouraging alerts.

[You managed to throw a weapon that is difficult to wield!]
[Beginner’s Luck applies! Your wire throwing accuracy and power increases.]
[Your Gift, Master Sharpshooter, becomes grade 6!]

===
▷「Master Sharpshooter」
[Intermediate rank] [Spirit attribute] [Evolving — Grade 6] [Proficiency EXP 0%]
—Master Sharpshooter’s Training
*Can wield all long ranged weapons more skillfully.
—Thousand-Mile Eyes
*Can see far away and predict a target’s movement path well.
*Increases speed and perception by 1 point.
—Bullet Time
*In combat only and once every 24 hours, you can spend up to 80 seconds in ‘Bullet Time’.
—Sharpshooter of Reversal
*Depending on Kim Hajin’s invariable stat, ‘luck’, you can deal bonus damage against a stronger opponent.
===

Master Sharpshooter finally evolved from low-intermediate rank to intermediate rank.
It was faster than I expected, but the Gift’s real growth was only now beginning.
Most likely, the same amount of effort I put in to go from grade 10 to grade 6 would be needed to go from grade 6 to grade 5.

“With this, I should be able to beat Chae Nayun.”

Murmuring, I was about to close the laptop when I suddenly remembered something.

“…I almost forgot.”

My family, or to be more precise, Kim Chundong’s family.
It was unlikely that the co-author left Kim Chundong’s past in a blank slate, especially when it was the easiest setting he could modify.
I immediately grew curious.

Kim Chundong was admitted to Cube. Although he was an extra in my novel, in the real world, he would have been an elite. Furthermore, genes played a huge role in determining one’s Gift. In other words, Kim Chundong’s parents weren’t likely to be ordinary people.

I entered Violet Banquet.
Tak, tak. From the numerous available categories, I clicked on [detective agency].

[100% trustworthy information agency, ‘Veteran’.]
[Information agency, ‘Echo’. Anything you want to know is at our disposal.]

There were several sellers, but agencies displayed on banner ads weren’t top tier agencies. After all, well-known and self-confident agencies didn’t need to advertise their product.
The real deal was here.

[Private Broker Yoo Jinhyuk]

Yoo Jinhyuk. This man was the best of the best in this field.
When it came to individuals in particular, there was nothing he couldn’t find out. Naturally, his service was extremely expensive. Just his base price was 50 million won.

“…Oh right.”

I was about to put in a request when I remembered something.

“I don’t have money.”

I had already invested everything I had into stocks.

Wiing—!
At that moment, something sitting on my drawer began to vibrate.
Once again, it was Evandel’s Seed.
The tiny seed even stood up vertically and shook its body. It was protesting that it was hungry.

“I know, I know.”

I took out a new gauze and gave it to the seed.

**

[Monday 1 P.M.]

The eventful weekend passed and a new Monday came by.
Rather than Monday’s usual class, the exam we couldn’t complete was continued today. Thus, cadets met in the exam room from two weeks ago. While groups 14 to 25 took the exam, other cadets were busy writing their reports.

‘Family affair…’

However, only Yoo Yeonha was immersed in thoughts completely irrelevant to the exam.
Family affair.
What Kim Hajin said the day before kept bothering her.

Kim Hajin had immediately recognized Belbet’s face, but it didn’t make sense for him to know Belbet’s face out of numerous criminals.
From her research, she found out that Belbet was a conman who worked exclusively in Europe. In other words, he couldn’t have had anything to do with Kim Hajin. It made more sense to conclude that Kim Hajin memorized the face of every international wanted criminal.

‘But why…’

After thinking about Kim Hajin’s strange obsession with wanted criminals, Yoo Yeonha came up with a hypothesis.
A horrible thing had happened to him in the past, but he didn’t know who the culprit was. So to find the culprit, he had the International Wanted List memorized.
Of course, this was only a hypothesis.
But…

‘Orphan.’

Adding in another keyword, the hypothesis became more logical.
Kim Hajin didn’t have parents. That was something almost every cadet knew because Shin Jonghak’s lackeys often harassed him as a parentless bastard.

‘So that must mean…’

Kim Hajin’s parents were dead. No, they were killed. Because of this, Kim Hajin had memorized the faces of criminals and was hiding his power to find and kill the culprit.
It made sense.
Yoo Yeonha added another keyword to her notes.

‘Sad past’

“Yeonha, what are you writing?”

Chae Nayun suddenly asked at that moment. She peeked at Yoo Yeonha’s notes with tired eyes as though she just woke up from a nap.

“Family affair? Orphan? Sad past? …Are you adopted?”

“…Are you crazy? I’m just curious about something.”

“Hm…. Well, I guess you’ve always been curious about random things. You know, you always tenaciously dig up things you can just ignore without gaining anything. You’re kind of a dunce. No, you are a dunce.”

“If you’re going to sleep, just keep sleeping, Nayun.”

Yoo Yeonha spoke as she gritted her teeth. Chae Nayun let out a big yawn, then leaned against the back of her chair.

“Huaam~ Yeah, I should.”

The heckler went away, and Yoo Yeonha fell back into the boundary of delusion and thought.
If Kim Hajin really had a past like that, she felt she could use it as an advantage when trying to recruit him in the future.
It was illegal to investigate a cadet’s background, but that just meant she had to avoid being caught.
That was how much she wanted to bring Kim Hajin into her guild. With the last incident, she became even more convinced. Kim Hajin was perhaps even more valuable than Kim Suho. At least, that’s what Yoo Yeonha thought.

“Hmm…”

Someone that could investigate Kim Hajin’s family background.
She knew of one such person. If he wanted, he could even draw up the family tree of a cockroach.
The only question was whether he would help her.

“…”

Yoo Yeonha turned her smartwatch on.
On the bottom of her contacts list, a number she had kept sealed for the past 5 years was printed.

[Uncle Yoo Jinhyuk]

Yoo Yeonha closed her eyes tightly and sent him a message.

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