A week before the final written exams.
I was playing a VR game when I received two messages on my smartwatch.
[Hajin, do you have any plans to sell a study guide?]
[Hajin, this is Yeonji. Can you lend me your notes? ㅜㅜ I’ll pay you back with ranking points when we become Heroes ㅜㅜㅜㅜ Pleaaaaase? ㅜㅜㅜㅜ]
I could see that people were getting desperate, as people I’ve never seen or talked to started messaging me. It wasn’t long ago that they were talking behind my back, calling me a delinquent, so I had no intention of helping any of them. Who even was Yeonji?
When I blocked them, another message came in.
My furrowed brows immediately went loose.
The sender this time was Rachel.
[Um, can you perhaps help me with this problem ㅠ.ㅠ? It’s a calculation problem, but it’s too hard… :’( ]
Rachel sent a picture of a problem.
I began to quietly solve it.
Four days before the written exams.
Yoo Yeonha was writing a talent report late into the night. Unlike her usual self, she was wearing round glasses, which gave her eyes increased fatigue recovery and typo checking functionality.
[Physical] ★★★☆☆ ~ ★★★★☆
Evaluation – Grade 1
—Hiding his power for some reason, but strength surpassing the level of cadets can be seen.
—Sole flaw is that his Gift hasn’t been revealed. But it is estimated to be at least four stars.
Evaluation – Grade 1
—His Gift, Sword Saint, is more than enough to give him full points.
—His elegant swordsmanship is well known among cadets.
—Although not as much as Kim Hajin, he has the potential to reach the pinnacle of Heroes…
“…Auuuu, I’m exhausted.”
Yoo Yeonha put her glasses down.
It had taken her five whole hours to write this report. She quantified the ability of seven cadets, including Kim Hajin and Kim Suho, and provided close to 200 pages of data in support of her estimate.
Recorded inside were things that weren’t revealed to the public, which only Yoo Yeonha knew about. This report would now become Essence of the Strait’s top-secret document and reach its leader, Yoo Jinwoong.
Although the finals were right around the corner, this report was more important to Yoo Yeonha than her grades. Of course, getting good grades wouldn’t be bad, but Yoo Yeonha’s goal wasn’t becoming the greatest Hero. Not only was she cognizant of her limits, but she also knew that a Hero was only one individual no matter how strong he was and that he would never be able to win against society.
However, Yoo Yeonha wanted to cultivate her own society in Korea. The reason she entered Cube was solely to obtain the status of a Hero and to make connections.
“…Is he going to continue ignoring me?”
Yoo Yeonha grumbled as she picked up her smartwatch.
Yoo Jinhyuk had yet to reply to her.
Three days before the written exams, Friday.
The head of the Chameleon Troupe collected her breath in front of an unfamiliar door.
—Boss, no one is going to notice your disguise, so you don’t have to worry. Remember, your name is Seo Ijin. Don’t forget about it. Find me if anything happens. I’ll be in the infirmary.
Jain’s voice rang out in her ears. Just like she said, her disguise was perfect. The cadet named Seo Ijin had similar build and hair color as her, so it didn’t take much magic power to disguise her either.
Boss nodded and opened the door.
As classes would begin soon, the room was full of cadets. She had already memorized everyone’s faces. She then walked to the group that Seo Ijin often hung out with.
At that moment…
“Hey! Seo Ijin!”
Someone struck her head.
She didn’t suffer any huge injury, but she fell in a daze. She thought back to what just happened, and coming to a realization, she stiffly turned her head to the side.
There, she saw a man she didn’t recognize.
“Did you study well?”
The man said, looking down at her. She replied just as she practiced.
“…Un, I did.”
“What were you doing yesterday? You weren’t respon—”
Before the man did anything else, she sat down on her seat.
Immediately, a pair of arms wrapped around her neck. She was slightly startled, but she wasn’t as shocked as before. Maintaining her calm, she looked back at the girl who clung to her back, feeling like a huge cicada had landed on her. Just like a cicada, the girl could also be killed by a single fist.
At that moment, the door opened. Boss turned towards the door, and there, she saw the reason she infiltrated this class.
She stared at Kim Hajin, who walked in while yawning and met her eyes. Immediately, he froze.
I gazed at a girl I usually wouldn’t have cared about. I didn’t know her name, but I knew she was in my class. The way she interacted with her friends looked completely normal from the outside.
However, I could see through her outside appearance. My Gift, Observation and Reading, could perfectly unmask Jain’s Gift.
That girl wasn’t a normal cadet, but the boss of the Chameleon Troupe.
She was likely here to observe Kim Suho. Still, this was something that never happened in the original story.
“Hey, why did you stop being active in your social media? Did you find a boyfriend?”
Cadets who didn’t know this touched her body here and there. It seemed the girl she disguised as was a bit of a pushover.
“Hoho, boyfriend? What do you mean? I just slept because I was tired.”
Boss responded in an awkward way, and I broke out into a cold sweat as I watched her. With one wrong move, I felt like their limbs and bones would break apart.
“Ah, Ijin, your cheeks are chubbier than usual. Did you eat ramen before sleeping?”
At that moment, one of the girls pinched Boss’ cheeks. Boss’ face immediately stiffened. I opened my mouth almost instinctively.
Perhaps because I wasn’t loud enough, they didn’t hear me, and Boss’ cheeks were already extended to the limit. I could see her clenching her fists.
In the end, I yelled loudly. This time, I went overboard with my volume. The classroom fell silent in an instant, and everyone’s gazes fell on me. Of course, I didn’t care about any of that.
“Can you shut up!? I’m trying to study!”
I yelled as I pointed at the notebook on my desk. If Boss exploded, everyone in this room could die.
“…What, you think you tell us what to do just because you’re smart?”
Though they grumbled unhappily, they stopped messing with Boss thanks to me interfering.
Afterward, Boss gave me an odd look, then buried her face on the desk. The rest began to talk behind my back.
For the entire duration of the written exam week, I carefully observed Seo Ijin, who Boss was disguised as. I didn’t just observe her. I even talked to her like a friend, hoping to obtain some SP.
She talked like a generic high school girl trying to sound cute, which didn’t suit her at all, and she even bought me an ice cream. I didn’t eat it, and that ice cream was still in my refrigerator.
In any case, the written exams ended without much trouble. Cube’s weekend after the exams was desolate. Cadets who pulled all-nighters to study for the exams were focused on going back to their peak physical condition. As a result, the weekend also went by like a breeze.
Monday finally arrived. It was the day the final exam would really begin.
The 1300 first year cadets went to a harbor in Busan, and everyone was currently on ships separated by class.
“We will now begin the baggage inspection.”
As soon as cadets all got on the ship, the instructors began the baggage inspection.
Three instructors each called on cadets, and it eventually became my turn.
I entered a room where an instructor was the only one in it and handed him my magic pouch.
“Food, tent, frying pan, torch, grill… things like that.”
“…I’m opening it.”
'Why ask what’s inside if you’re going to open it?'
As I grumbled inwardly, the instructor pulled everything out of the bag. He stared at the assortment of items in disbelief.
“Why did you prepare so much?”
“Well, the announcements said that a single exam will go on for the whole week, so I had a general idea of what the test would be. I prepared accordingly.”
The instructor grinned, but still carefully looked through everything. Then, he sent me back. Thankfully, he didn’t find out about Evandel’s Seed. I brought it with me since it could hatch at any time. It seemed he thought it was a slightly big almond or something.
After the inspection, I sat down on a bench near the ship’s bow.
In the distance, I could see an island coming into view. A countless number of drones were flying around the island like seagulls.
“…I’m a bit nervous.”
Now that the exam was right under my nose, I began to grow nervous. This exam would be difficult, especially since I couldn’t use my Desert Eagle.
…No, I could use it. I just had to avoid being seen by those drones.
And there was a simple way to avoid their watch.
I just had to hack into them.
“Now, I will explain how this exam will work.”
Once the baggage inspection finished, an instructor came out to explain the rules.
“In 30 minutes, you will split into groups of 10 and land in different areas of that island. You will stay there for five days, and you will have to survive on your own. We will, however, provide half a day’s worth of food.”
The food supply had decreased from a full day’s worth of food in the original story to half a day’s worth of food.
At the instructor’s shocking words, the ship began to get noisy.
“The exam is rather simple. The number of points you get will be your grade. Obtaining points is equally simple. There are wild animals and monsters living on that island. Wild animals are obviously there for you to eat, and monsters will be what you hunt to gain points. Depending on their rank and grade, you will get 1 to 10 points. You should have all received special smartwatches for this exam. Scan their corpses with them, and you’ll be able to see the number of points you got.”
The instructor’s explanation continued for a while.
In summary, cadets could steal, sell, and buy points from each other. They could eliminate other cadets, from which they would gain an additional 5 points on top of all the points the eliminated cadet had. However, cadets could only fight each other after the first 12 hours.
“In addition, exam overseers will have huge nametags on their chest. Although I doubt anyone can succeed, you can steal these nametags for 200 points each.”
Despite the huge point values these nametags had, no one seemed interested in them.
“Finally, you see that tower in the middle? You are eliminated if you have your smartwatch stolen, so you can head to the tower and wait for the end of the exam.”
Once the instructor’s explanation ended, heavy tension emerged from the ship’s deck. No one was talking to each other. Soon, the instructors brought out boats. Cadets would now be transported to the island in groups of ten.
“Chae Nayun, Jin Yooyun, Selen, Haize…”
The starting group was very important as it determined your potential teammates or enemies.
“Kim Hajin, Jin Seoha, Yoojoong, Wang Shifu, Blen… Rachel, Tara.”
I got on the boat and exchanged awkward looks with nine other cadets. Rachel was also in my group.
Soon, the boat set off. I gazed at the island and fell in thought. Rachel would be exposed to the greatest danger in this exam. Lancaster, who was already resentful towards her, had become a bigger threat in this world on top of becoming more aggressive.
“Here’s your stop.”
But before I could carefully plan out my actions, the boat arrived at the island.
The moment we landed, I talked to Rachel.
“…Rachel-ssi, would you like to team up with me?”
I didn’t expect her to agree, and Rachel shook her head as I expected.
“I’m more comfortable going alone.”
That’s what Rachel said. However, I didn’t simply back down. I gave her my exam smartwatch’s live coordinates. This exam smartwatch had three functionalities – scanning monsters, allowing for point trading, and location sharing. The latter two functionalities were there to encourage teaming up.
“Just in case you change your mind.”
I spoke as I pointed at my watch, then Rachel smiled and left. Meanwhile, the remaining cadets were murmuring to themselves about me being rejected. Since these guys didn’t seem useful, I also just went on my way, running into the forest.
After finding a random tree to lean on, I opened my laptop. It took a reasonable amount of SP to access the drones’ servers. Once I paid, my laptop screen split into 60 smaller screens. Thanks to my Gift, my eyesight could clearly analyze all of them simultaneously.
Most of the important cadets were alone. Chae Nayun was already preparing to get lost, Kim Suho was fighting a monster, and Yoo Yeonha was the only one teamed up with someone. If I remembered correctly, the girl she was with was rank 15. It seemed she already won over a skilled cadet.
However, they weren’t who I was interested in.
I soon discovered a group of five cadets who were part of the repeater class. I had already looked up the faces of those who would be threats. In the original story, only two of those five were Djinns, but it was likely that all five were Djinns in this world.
However, there was still some time before they would start to get active. After all, cadets weren't allowed to fight each other for at least the next 12 hours.
“I guess I should find a camping spot.”