Dorm 4, penthouse.
Chae Nayun was lying on her bed in this large, empty room.
Today was Sunday, and classes would resume tomorrow.
Chae Nayun let out a deep sigh. Thinking about tomorrow, fear came over her. The result of her bet with Kim Hajin should have spread by now, that she was completely overwhelmed. Some people would feel elated, while some would worry. Chae Nayun hoped that the emotions directed at her would be schadenfreude rather than worry and sympathy.
But what worried her more than anything else was Kim Hajin himself.
Chae Nayun remembered her conversation with Kim Hajin in Norway. He had murmured that he quit smoking. At the time, she thought he was just trying to act cool, but with the information she had now, she had to believe that he had a reason for smoking. That with no one to rely on, he had to rely on an object to relieve his pain…
Chae Nayun fell flat on her bed.
There were ample traces of the harassment Kim Hajin suffered. Shin Jonghak’s lackeys had written posts on forums and commented on his social media, and Chae Nayun looked through them all. Just like Yoo Yeonha said, she could hardly read most of them without furrowing her brows. Embarrassment, shame, and remorse became tangled up inside her into a complicated emotion.
Change of weapon and position.
Thinking about it now, Kim Hajin had experienced them first.
She read that Kim Hajin was originally a swordsman. Even so, he gave up on his sword. Most likely, it was because he realized his Gift wasn’t suitable for it.
Abandoning everything he had worked towards his entire life, choosing an unorthodox weapon like a gun… Chae Nayun wondered what he must have felt.
Chae Nayun pushed her hand below her bed. From there, she took out a fairly big suitcase. She got up from her bed, then opened it. Immediately, her treasured memories resurfaced.
Inside the suitcase were hundreds of pictures. They were something she had buried deep inside her heart to avoid being hurt, but each picture was something she could never forget as they were taken with people she loved the most.
Her mother and her older brother. Inside the pictures, they were happily smiling together with Chae Nayun. The young Chae Nayun looked so happy that she teared up simply by looking at her younger self.
Chae Nayun held back her tears. Then, she picked up the short sword placed in the suitcase.
The sword was only about a meter long, but because it was enchanted with a special magic, it increased in length when it absorbed magic power. From what she remembered, the maximum length was about 4 meters. This mystical sword was gifted to her by Yoo Sihyuk eight years ago.
For the first time in a long time, Chae Nayun held the sword in her hand. Although it looked like a cute toy, it was a deadly weapon that was heavier than the world when she was young.
“What was my limit again? I doubt my magic power control was good when I was 8, but I remember it being around 2 meters.…”
Chae Nayun imbued the sword with her magic power. The blade shot up and became long enough to reach the ceiling.
“Wow… I grew a lot.”
Realizing something obvious, Chae Nayun stared at the sword for a long time. Then, just like how her master taught her in the past, she enveloped the sword with magic power. Her blue magic power rose up clearly around the blade.
The sword resonated with her magic power, manifesting sword qi.
Chae Nayun put her forehead against the sword. Then, she closed her eyes. The cold metallic touch and the ringing of magic power, Chae Nayun engraved the sensation in her heart.
Sunday. I had a meeting with Cube’s faculty. It was because of something called a Specialized Gift. The rumor that I defeated Chae Nayun and hit the 900-meter mark had already spread all across Cube.
They asked whether the rumor was true. After thinking about it for a bit, I nodded. Then, they asked whether I wanted to release the information to the public or keep it a secret.
I chose the latter. In reality, it didn’t really matter which one I chose as it would be revealed regardless. The only difference was that the latter option made me a product. If someone wanted information about me from Cube, they would have to buy it from Cube. Of course, since rumors of it had already spread, they would only be paying for a confirmation of the rumor.
In any case, once the meeting ended, I left the administration building. As final exams began in two weeks, there was practically no one walking outside. Everyone was likely studying in the library or training at the Fitness Center.
However, I headed back to my dorm.
Opening the familiar door, I sat down on the couch and opened my laptop.
There were numerous things I needed to buy for the upcoming exam.
I put all the camping equipment I could think of into the shopping basket. It cost me two million won in total, but I made the purchase without hesitation.
Instructors would go through our bags before the final exam to look for personal weapons and defensive equipment. However, items like the ones I bought were permitted. If they ask why I brought them, I had more than enough excuses to give. The simplest one was to say that I prepared everything just in case.
[Your purchase has been completed.]
Immediately after the confirmation message popped up, Park Soohyuk also sent me a message.
[Hajin, we made our website. Take a look. You’re on our list of investors.]
It was an agency website. I immediately went into it.
「Cultivation of Trust – SH Agency」
[SH Agency Introduction] [List of Investors] [List of Affiliated Hunters]
The design was quite decent. But still, affiliated hunters? Was it there just for the sake of being there? I snickered as I clicked on it.
Date of birth: 08/03/1997
A hunter with 5 years of experience
Date of birth: 09/01/2005
A hunter with 1 year of experience
“Oh, there actually are some?”
Surprisingly, he had already found two hunters. I didn’t know who they were, but the important thing was that they were there.
This time, I clicked on the list of investors and was immediately surprised.
I thought I would be the only one, but someone else had joined the ranks.
She was quick as expected.
With a grin, I closed the laptop.
[How’s the website?]
[It’s clean and nice, but I think you should put Yoo Yeonha’s name before me on the list of investors.]
Even if she might not act like it, she actually cared a lot about such things.
[Why? I don’t really care, but shouldn’t you come first? You know, both alphabetically and by who came first.]
[No, just do as I say.]
If left unchanged, the number of investments he got in the future could very well decrease.
The next day.
Standing in front of the classroom door, I collected my breath.
I was especially nervous today. The archery duel had about 70 spectators, so what happened in the duel was bound to spread. Now that four days had passed since the duel, it would be strange if anyone didn’t know.
Because of it, I was somewhat apprehensive about going into the classroom, but I still opened the door and walked in.
Everyone’s eyes immediately fell on me, and I could hear them murmuring about me. Ignoring whatever they were saying, I walked to my usual spot and sat down. Chae Nayun wasn’t here yet.
No, I thought she wasn’t here, but hearing a familiar voice, I turned towards that direction.
There, I saw Chae Nayun who was different than her usual self. To be more precise, her long brown hair, which reached her chest, had been shortened to her shoulders.
Chae Nayun and Yoo Yeonha were talking in whispers.
“…So how’s the short hair? You do look good in it.”
“Hair is hair.I do like that it’s less hot though. You should also cut your hair.”
“I like mine the way it is.… By the way, you didn’t cut your hair because of the bet, did you?”
“I did it because it was hot. Plus, you can’t always win. Do I look like someone who would dwell on the past?”
From what I could see, she was the same other than her hair being shorter.
But at that moment, Chae Nayun stretched and turned her head sideways. Because it felt like she was looking at me, I quickly buried my face on my desk.
Chae Nayun pretended to stretch and peeked at Kim Hajin. He had only just arrived but was already studying hard.
“Kuu~ I’m tired.”
Chae Nayun turned back to the front.
“Oh right, did you study?”
At that moment, Shin Jonghak, who was sitting behind Chae Nayun, asked. Chae Nayun gave a simple reply.
“I did enough.”
Theory classes only held a minor role in Cube. Combat exams and written exams had a 7:3 ratio in their impact on grades, but because combat exams better reflected the level of cadets, cadets who ranked near the top in combat exams usually scored similarly in written exams. Of course, there were exceptions as well.
“Enough? Then you should be around rank 600 again, hahaha.”
Thinking Chae Nayun, who was pretending to be fine, to really be fine, Shin Jonghak made fun of her insensitively.
Chae Nayun glared at Shin Jonghak fiercely. Feeling the hostile look, Shin Jonghak stopped snickering and awkwardly backed off.
“Oh right, here are the Phenomenon Realm Analysis notes you were asking about yesterday.”
Kim Suho changed the topic in a hurry.
“Thanks. I’ll copy it quickly and give it back.”
“Don’t expect too much. Phenomenon Realm Analysis is difficult for everyone except Kim Ha…”
Kim Suho paused in the middle of his sentence, realizing he made a mistake.
“You’re right. It’s difficult for everyone except Kim Hajin. It’s fine, geez. You don’t have to be so careful.”
Chae Nayun shook her head and put Kim Suho’s notebook in front of her. Although Yoo Yeonha was better at studying than Kim Suho, Yoo Yeonha was untrustworthy.
Even in reality, Yoo Yeonha had two notes because she didn’t want to lend her real one to Chae Nayun.
Then, the theory class professor walked in.
“Now, now, quiet down. You know your exams are in two weeks, right? It’ll cover everything until Aurora Reaction.”
The noisy classroom immediately became silent. The professor announced the scope of material covered on the test before starting today’s class. Chae Nayun opened her notebook and grabbed her pen.
‘I’ll study hard today. I have to show that I’m different than before… but I’m a bit sleepy… this is the professor’s fault…’
When she woke up after dozing off, there was a ton of material she needed to write down.
“Alright, here’s a calculation problem, your favorites type. Now I know some of you don’t understand why you need to learn this. But, once you go out into the real world and begin entering dungeons, you’ll be on your knees thanking me. If you don’t want to cry tears of blood, don’t slack off now.”
It seemed the professor finished explaining the theoretical concepts of today’s class as he already moved on to example problems. Chae Nayun couldn’t understand this rift in time.
“For this problem, I want somebody to help me solve it. Let’s see….”
The professor paused for a moment and began to look over the list of cadets. Chae Nayun immediately became nervous, worried that he might call her name. She was already embarrassed to death because of the archery duel. The last thing she wanted was to face another embarrassment.
“Ah. Cadet Kim Hajin. Come out.”
Thankfully, it wasn’t Chae Nayun.
Kim Hajin got up from his seat and sauntered up to the teaching podium as everyone’s gazes fell on him. Then, he stepped up the podium and was handed a hologram pen by the professor.
He then proceeded to solve the problem without a pause. His procedures and calculations were both flawless, and even his penmanship was impeccable. Chae Nayun stared at the variables and numbers he wrote down in a daze. Then, she suddenly snapped out and began to copy everything down.
“Good. Very good.”
The professor applauded as soon as Kim Hajin finished. Everyone else was busy copying what he wrote.
“Perfect. As expected of rank 1 in the world. You can sit now. I’ll do the explaining.”
Rank 1 in the world? Kim Hajin tilted his head in confusion, but then went back to his seat without further questions.
“Look everyone. This is what we call a flawless, model answer.”
The professor gathered everyone’s attention. This time, Chae Nayun also paid attention with widened eyes.
Monday night, 10 P.M.
I went to the shooting range as soon as I finished working out in the Fitness Center. I cranked up the difficulty to stage 10 where the targets also attacked and started practicing.
But while I practiced, faint shouting continued to pierce through the wall.
Huap! Hiyaap! Something like that. Curious, I peered through the wall.
In the shooting room next to me, Chae Nayun was brandishing a sword against a dummy she must have brought from somewhere.
It was a bit strange seeing someone train with a sword in a shooting range, but I still felt good about it.
In the original story, Chae Nayun changed to a sword only about a year after she graduated from Cube. The reason for it was the Genghis Khan Artifact Scramble, which occurred in Mongolia. There, she encountered the Djinn who killed her mother but was unable to kill him with her bow.
If Chae Nayun started honing her swordsmanship now, by graduation, she would likely be a monster second only to Kim Suho. Feeling pleased with myself, I stretched and ended today’s practice.
But when I left the shooting room, the door next to me also opened. From inside, Chae Nayun walked out as she wiped her sweat. I instantly froze, and it was the same for Chae Nayun.
To be completely honest, I felt sorry about things I had said to Chae Nayun. Although I had good intentions of trying to encourage her, I had still hit her nerve twice. So before Chae Nayun attacked me, I opened my mouth first.
“…D-Did you finish your archery practice?”
“Huh? Oh, uh, yeah.”
Chae Nayun awkwardly retorted.
“W-What, I can’t?”
“No, keep up the good work.”
I wanted to end the conversation and quickly leave, but Chae Nayun stopped me.
I was a bit scared, but I still turned around and faced her.
“You, um… said you quit smoking.”
I was caught off guard by her unexpected words.
Indeed, I did say that during our trip to Norway. To be exact, Chae Nayun overheard what I muttered to myself.
“…How did you quit?”
It seemed like a completely irrelevant question to ask. Was she trying to offer me a poisoned cigarette or something?
“You don’t need to know.”
It wasn’t a question I could answer, so I cut her off and left.
From my back, I could feel Chae Nayun’s gaze.