“You have three lives. Whoever can hit a target farther away wins.”
In truth, this archery duel followed the general archery competition rules. I had seen Heroes have archery battles on TV a couple of times, though, of course, Heroes’ archery battles had all sorts of additional effects like earthquakes or whatnot.
“Am I going first?”
Chae Nayun asked.
“Alright. 100 meters is too easy, so let’s start at 200 meters.”
Chae Nayun knocked an arrow and pulled on the bowstring. Her sharp eyes stared at the 200-meter mark from which the target would shoot up.
With her short shout, the target shot up from the right side. Chae Nayun turned her bow 60 degrees to the right and fired, hitting the target 200 meters away with ease.
“Hey, it’s your turn now.”
Chae Nayun crossed her arms with a smile and examined me with an arrogant look.
I clumsily copied the same posture Chae Nayun took. With my feet spread apart appropriately, I placed my center of gravity between my legs. Knocking my arrow, I tightly grabbed the bow and bowstring on each of my hands.
Now, was it voice recognition?
I muttered, and a target shot up. Startled, I let go of the bowstring. Naturally, the arrow was way off target.
Chae Nayun laughed, but she didn’t just laugh, she grabbed her belly with one hand and pointed at me with the other.
“Did you really not practice? Do you want to start over from the 100-meter mark?”
I shook my head.
“It’s a handicap.”
Although I failed once, I got a feeling for how to position myself.
Chae Nayun had a textbook posture, but I didn’t need to do the same. In the first place, textbook postures were made to be applied in practical use. You couldn’t become an expert just by perfecting textbook material. It was only the minimum requirement to become an expert.
And my Gift made me an inborn master.
“I have to go again, right?”
“Yeah, yeah. You only have two lives now, so you’re out if you miss twice.”
I nodded and stood tall. I didn’t need to take aim. The target moved anyways, so there was no reason to take aim beforehand.
The target shot up. I predicted its trajectory and fired so that it would miss the target by a bit. Then, the arrow grazed by the target.
“…Is this a joke?”
I was putting on a show, but Chae Nayun seemed to have lost interest. The same could be said for the spectators, who were starting to call me a big-mouthed fool that was desperate for attention. It seemed missing twice in a row was too much.
“I got the feeling for it now.”
“I’m going again.”
I muttered quickly.
This time, I fired the moment the target shot up to about 2 meters. My arrow flew through the sky and pierced the target perfectly.
Chae Nayun seemed surprised at how quickly I fired. It was the same for the spectators. With a leisure smile, I gestured at Chae Nayun.
“You’re up. No pressure.”
“…I guess you did practice.”
Now, the distance was 250 meters. Chae Nayun glared at the distance with her bowstring pulled.
The target shot up, zigzagging through the air. After taking a moment to deliberate, Chae Nayun fired, then her arrow pierced the center of the target. It was still easy for Chae Nayun.
“You’re up next.”
The following back and forth was extremely boring. We each took turns firing and hitting our targets.
However, the spectators didn’t seem to think the same way as they were staring at us with excitement clearly visible in their eyes.
300 meters, 350 meters, 400 meters, 450 meters.… The distance continued to increase and eventually came to 500 meters. From this distance, the target could barely be seen with the naked eye.
Chae Nayun’s arms began to tremble with nervousness.
If my thoughts were correct, she would soon self-destruct. Chae Nayun’s personality wasn’t suited to being a sharpshooter. She wasn’t patient and was easily shaken up and angered. She wasn’t the type of person who could win in a nail-biting competition like this.
Even so, Chae Nayun calmed herself with a deep breath and fired.
However, her arrow brushed past the target. She had missed for the first time at the 500-meter mark. I could immediately tell that she was shaken up.
She managed to succeed on her next try, but she was now left with two lives. She breathed out a sigh of relief.
However, Chae Nayun wouldn’t be able to surpass the 600-meter mark.
I would force her hands.
To pressure her psychologically, I shouted as soon as Chae Nayun’s turn finished.
I fired immediately, and the arrow perfectly pierced through the center of the target.
With a darkened expression, Chae Nayun held her bow up once more, but I stopped her.
“Since we're at the half-way mark, I’ll go first from now.”
Without asking for her confirmation, I held up my bow and knocked an arrow.
The target shot up from the 550-meter mark, but I could see it as though it was only a meter away. It was a bird-shaped doll covered in a black cloth. My eyes could also predict what path it would take. After putting the speed of my arrow into the calculation, I fired at the bird doll’s glimmering silhouette.
Just like last time, my arrow pierced the target perfectly.
Chae Nayun, who was staring at the target in a daze, flinched. Her lips were now dry, and she swallowed hard before silently holding up her bow.
“You know it too, right?”
Before she could fire, I provoked her. Simply put, I was trash talking her to shake up her mentality.
“You suck at using a bow.”
Chae Nayun immediately glared at me. In reality, being able to hit 550-meter away without using magic power was commendable, as wooden arrows couldn’t ignore air resistance even with a high-quality bow.
However, being commendable wasn’t the level Chae Nayun longed for. Just by being decent at shooting, she couldn’t accomplish her ‘goal’.
Chae Nayun shouted loudly and cut me off. Gritting her teeth, she fired at the target that shot up.
However, impatient archers could never hit their mark.
Chae Nayun’s arrow flew past the target.
“But why you insist on using a bow... I got curious, so I spent some time thinking about it.”
Chae Nayun shouted in frustration.
This time, she concentrated as much as she could and fired. Thankfully, she managed to hit the target. I shouted back without giving Chae Nayun a chance to rest.
My target shot up before the remnants of Chae Nayun’s target could even hit the ground. When I fired, the target was instantly destroyed. I didn't feel pressured in any way, but Chae Nayun’s face began to pale.
I continued what I was saying.
“Deep inside, you know it too. You’re more talented with swords.”
Chae Nayun didn’t become Yoo Sihyuk’s disciple for show. As a Master rank Hero, Yoo Sihyuk didn’t care about people’s background. The only thing he took into consideration in picking his disciples was their talent.
Chae Nayun was one of the so-called 'Children of Yoo Sihyuk'.
“I said shut up!”
Chae Nayun blurted out in rage. I held up my bow.
Now it was the 600-meter mark. Unless magic power arrows were used, the maximum range for the light bow I had in my hand was 1.4 kilometer. Although the 600-meter mark didn’t even reach half that distance, 1.4 kilometer was purely the ‘maximum range’.
The realistic range, which even professional archers could only hit with a 50% accuracy, was exactly half that distance. But in this competition, targets were even flying through the sky.
The current Chae Nayun was simply incapable of hitting a target of this distance.
“You’re scared. You’re scared of fighting with a sword, and you’re scared of being drenched with blood.”
That was how she was in the original story. Her mother being murdered etched a deep trauma in her heart, but in this timeline, her trauma should be even deeper because of what happened with her older brother.
“That’s why you’re justifying yourself every day. That you’re just as talented with a bow. That you can become the greatest Hero even with a bow.”
I took a moment to breathe.
“But with a bow, you won’t be able to kill a single Djinn, much less get revenge for your older brother.”
That was the killing blow. Tak. Chae Nayun let go of her bowstring. Her arrows flew through the empty sky, marking her third failure.
She had lost.
“What did you just say.…”
Chae Nayun glared at me with eyes full of rage. From her hands holding onto her bow, I could see blood oozing out.
“With that strength, you should use a sword.”
I stared into the distance. Then, I shouted, “Shot”. Not once, not twice, but thrice.
600 meters, 650 meters, 700 meters.
Three targets shot up into the air with little delay. I quickly fired three times, and then the three arrows pierced through the three targets.
I didn’t stop there. I wanted to know the limit of grade 6 of Master Sharpshooter. Since Chae Nayun was finished, I continued shooting by myself.
750 meters, 800 meters…. The atmosphere became heavier as the distance increased, and Chae Nayun’s heavy breathing became louder. I could feel her stinging breath filled with anger and defeat.
“900 meters. I’ll stop here.”
Because I felt like the 900-meter mark was my limit, I gave up afterwards. I didn’t want to try the 950-meter mark, where I had a high chance of failure.
“550 meters vs 900 meters. My victory, right?”
I stared at Chae Nayun. Before I noticed, her glaring eyes had watered up.
Currently, Chae Nayun was unable to win against her anger. Normally, she would have jumped when I mentioned her older brother, but she probably didn’t want to seem like someone who was making a fuss after losing.
“I got lucky.”
I grinned and put my hand out to Chae Nayun. Her face became distorted. Unsurprisingly, she didn’t shake my hand.
“What do you want.”
Instead, Chae Nayun muttered briefly.
Unexpectedly, she accepted her loss easily. I smiled.
“Nothing. I want nothing.”
If I forced her to give up being an archer, she would do so in frustration and regret. But if she didn’t give up out of her own will, if she couldn’t overcome her attachment to bows and her fear of close ranged combat, she wouldn’t be able to reach the apex of swordsmanship.
And I knew that she could overcome her fear and trauma. She always grew through frustration, defeat, and anger. That was something that shouldn’t have changed.
“But, I want you to think for yourself. What your Gift is, what your talent is.”
I said so as I pushed my hair up. Perhaps because I focused too much, I was sweating quite a bit.
Then, I suddenly remembered that the bow I was holding belonged to Chae Nayun.
“Oh, and I’ll take this bow.”
Even the cheapest bow cost millions of won. I had to save money where I could.
Chae Nayun didn’t seem to mind either, or at least, she might not even have heard that last part.
Her shoulders were trembling ever so slightly. She was crying quietly.
I turned around without speaking further, then left the archery range where only the sound of wind resounded.
At the same time, on the highest floor of Seoul’s 5-star hotel....
“Boss, are you really going? You don’t have to go yourself, you know.”
In front of a fancy dressing table in the penthouse room, Jain asked worriedly.
“I’ll go examine him myself.”
“…Ehew. You’re fixated on something again.”
Boss was very adamant.
Without a choice, Jain released her magic power. Covering Boss’ face, a new face appeared on top.
Jain’s Gift could be used on someone else as long as that person was within a 10-kilometer range of her. Using her Gift, Jain had changed Boss’ face and physique to that of a certain ‘cadet’.
“So, do we just wait somewhere under the sea?”
After finishing her operation, Jain murmured as she studied Boss’ expression.
“Jain, are you scared?”
“No, I’m not scared. It’s just that… you know, Yun Seung-Ah that crazy bitch might come.”
Yun Seung-Ah and Jain were like cats and dogs. If Yun Seung-Ah came as an exam overseer, Jain wasn’t confident. Confident, in letting her live.
“I missed that ring because of her. If I see her again, I don’t think I can hold myself back.”
Boss stared at Jain quietly before nodding.
“Then just wait somewhere nearby.”
“…Okay. Ah, and here, it’s the detail of the cadet Boss is disguising as. At least glance over it.”
Jain gave Boss a thick stack of paper. Jain could copy her target’s outer appearance as well as their habits onto herself, but the latter only applied to herself.
Boss began to read the document with the cadet’s background information.
“You’re good at acting, right Boss?”
Three weeks remained until the final exam.Previous Chapter Next Chapter