An hour passed by since I entered the island. I was still walking through the forest.
Currently, I was heading to my chosen camping spot, a place that was near a river with a mountain on one side. It was the region the ancient sages would have called, ‘back to the mountain, face to the water’.
I was prepared thoroughly for an exploration. On my right hand was my laptop, which constantly showed drone footages from the island, and in my pocket was a map of the island outputted by the Book of Truth. In other words, I was full of cheat keys.
But before I could arrive at the camping spot, I ran into a monster.
Clown monkey. Just like its name suggested, it was a monkey with colorful spots on its body. However, its face was a bit grotesque for a monkey, and because it was the size of an adult man, people were taken aback the first time they saw it.
“…Jesus, it looks horrifying.”
Clown monkeys should be low-intermediate rank grade 9. Of course, there were individual differences, but the one in front of me didn’t look any stronger than the average clown monkey.
I took out my training handgun.
Because it was quick, it would be troublesome if I didn’t finish it in one blow. So, I aimed for its vital point, its tail. Clown monkeys were innately nimble, but because they would lose their sense of balance without their tails, they were easy to deal with.
I pulled the trigger without hesitation. The fired magic bullet drew a straight line across the air, then pierced the clown monkey’s tail. It tried to jump up in response to the sudden ambush, but with its tail injured, it lost its balance and fell. I quickly fired five bullets into its head, though the fourth bullet was enough to penetrate its skull.
“That was easy.”
After scanning the clown monkey’s corpse with the smartwatch, I continued on my way.
After about 30 minutes of walking, a river stream appeared.
The source of the water was located in the northernmost area of the island, which flowed down and split into eight branches. This river seemed to be a branch of a branch but had no problem to serve as a water source. Furthermore, there was a rocky mountain behind the river and a dense forest above it, making it an ideal camping spot.
I took out my tent, which looked like a small disk and could be opened up by imbuing magic power. When I put in some of Stigma’s magic power, the disk moved by itself and formed a huge tent.
I entered the tent. It was cozier than I imagined. There was even furniture inside, a bed and a small table.
Since nothing big would happen at the beginning of the exam, I decided to get some sleep.
With a big yawn, I jumped on the bed.
Nine hours after the start of the exam.
The blazing sun had set, and darkness descended on the island and sea.
Amidst the fiercely blowing wind, Rachel was sitting on a rocky mountain and collecting her breath.
She had set out by herself after rejecting several offers to team up, but now, she was feeling the need to team up more than anyone else.
The biggest reason was food.
Rachel looked down at her food supply with a mixed feeling. Only half of the provided food remained. She ate only two hours ago, but she became hungry again after scuffling with a monster.
Cadets had to find their own food in this place by looking for edible vegetation or hunting wild animals. Anyone could guess that wild animals stayed near rivers.
But even if she hunted wild animals, there was the problem of cooking them. Cutting their skin, taking out their bones, and obtaining the meat… Rachel had no experience with butchery.
Since she already hunted six monsters, she could also trade with other cadets. But points were precious. She was trying to eat for the sake of obtaining points, so paying points to buy food didn’t make much sense.
When Rachel was pondering with a grave look…
A faint scent of meat tickled her nose.
She stood up and looked down the mountain. Below, she could faintly see the red color of fire. It especially stood out in the dark.
There were likely cadets there. From the smell, they had to be grilling meat.
Rachel swallowed her saliva. Although she still had half of her food supply remaining, she knew she had to save it as much as possible. Not only would the desperate side be at a disadvantage in a trade, the provided food supply was also clean and trustworthy.
Rachel jumped down. After running down from a 300m height in just three minutes, Rachel reached the ground. Then, she chased after the smell.
Not long afterward, she found five cadets cooking a giant boar. The cadets noticed her presence and turned their gazes.
Three male and two female cadets. It was a well-balanced group. Rachel stared at them silently.
“…What do you want?”
They put up their guard. Rachel estimated their battle prowess. However, it was still too early to fight other cadets. Rachel pointed at the boar.
“I’d like to buy some.”
“Ah~ Haha, you’re working alone.”
A male cadet, who seemed to be the group’s leader, stood up. He approached Rachel and held out his greasy hand. Rachel tried to shake his hand anyway, but the man pulled his hand back before she could do so.
“Ah, my hand is dirty.”
He laughed heartily and continued.
“You’re welcome to join in. We’re all cadets here. That’s fine with you guys, right?”
The man turned around and gave the others a meaningful look which Rachel couldn’t see.
The man then turned back around.
“Oh right, you must not know our names. We know yours.”
Rachel silently nodded. The man scratched his neck and spoke.
“Well, Rachel-ssi is famous… I’m Joo Yeohoon.”
“Argh, where am I?”
Chae Nayun wandered in the woods for 14 hours. During this time, she hunted 9 monsters, likely placing herself near the top of the leaderboard. It was the result of simultaneously using a bow and a sword.
“There’s no end…”
She plowed through vines and tall grass, but no matter how much she walked, she couldn’t find a useful source of water or food. In fact, she never even ran into a cadet. Now, she was exhausted.
When she was on the verge of passing out…
Like a light of salvation, a faint torchlight appeared in the distance. She felt that it could even be a campfire.
Chae Nayun ran towards the light, and as she approached the light, she could smell a spicy fragrance.
After escaping the endless field of tall grass, Chae Nayun witnessed the source of the light.
There, she saw Kim Hajin munching on a piece of meat. With chopsticks in his hand and a plate full of meat, he was staring at her.
He tilted his head and asked.
Chae Nayun swallowed hard. Although she favored high-class food, she had moved for 14 hours with little rest or food. She had long since devoured the provided food. If it was something that could be eaten, she was prepared to eat it tastily.
Chae Nayun first observed Kim Hajin and his surroundings. There was a huge, cozy-looking tent behind him. The source of the light wasn’t a campfire like she had thought, but a portable grill. Not only that, he had a table, a chair, a frying pan, and packaged meat that was being cooked…
“W-What the heck, where did you get all these?”
“…I prepared them for the exam.”
“What? How did you know about the exam to have prepared all these?”
“I brought them just in case. Don’t you know I’m number 1 in the world?”
Kim Hajin tapped on his head and spoke.
“I’m pretty damn smart.”
“…Yeah, good for you.”
Chae Nayun’s sarcastic remark only lasted for a moment. She swallowed hard looking at the meat.
On the other hand, Kim Hajin was wondering if their encounter was brought about by luck. Thinking about it, it did seem like points had walked into him on their own.
Chae Nayun nodded without speaking.
“How much food do you have left?”
“…I lost it when I was fighting a monster.”
She had eaten them already, so she made a small lie.
“R-Really, I’m a bit clumsy.”
Kim Hajin crossed his arm and fell in thought, while Chae Nayun held her breath and waited for him to speak.
“How many points do you have?”
Chae Nayun immediately breathed a sigh of relief in her heart. Things were going as she hoped.
She killed nine monsters and obtained a total of 35 points, but she didn’t say the truth.
“Then give me half.”
Half. It was an expensive price to pay for a single day’s meal.
“Yep, But in exchange, you’re sleepy, right? I’ll also lend you a sleeping bag. Just say no if you don’t want to.”
“N-No! I mean, yes! I, I want to.”
Chae Nayun turned on her exam smartwatch. This watch could recognize other smartwatches within a 3m radius.
She clicked on ‘point trading’.
Half of 25 was 12.5, but only whole numbers could be used in trading. After thinking about it for a bit, she sent 12 points to Kim Hajin and stealthily sat down next to him. After confirming that he received points, Kim Hajin gave well-cooked pork chops to Chae Nayun.
“But are you okay with just this? They’re pork chops.”
“…I’ll have to eat to live.”
Chae Nayun heard that something like this was a common occurrence in Dungeons and Towers.
She put a pork chop in her mouth. Was it because she was hungry? She found it quite delicious. Then, she saw Kim Hajin dipping his pork chops in a sauce. She did the same thing and found that it was tastier.
The two of them continued eating for 20 minutes.
During this time, neither of them talked.
“Ah, now I’m full.”
Once her hunger went away, Chae Nayun felt a bit awkward. She wasn’t particularly close to Kim Hajin. In fact, their relationship was better described as uncomfortable.
Just when she was thinking about running away…
Kim Hajin gave her a bottle of water. Chae Nayun only stared at it in hesitation.
“It’s mineral water, not river water.”
Did this guy have mind-reading abilities?
Kuhum. Chae Nayun let out a dry cough and took the water. Gulp, gulp, kyaa. After emptying half of it in one go, she let out a satisfied sigh.
“…By the way, what’s that?”
Then, she suddenly caught sight of a ring on Kim Hajin’s index finger.
Kim Hajin’s face stiffened. For a moment, he rubbed his ring without talking. It was as though he was choosing his words. Seeing his solemn yet flustered reaction, a flash of insight arose in Chae Nayun’s mind.
“Ah, nevermind, nevermind. I’m not curious at all.”
‘I might not act like it, but I’m someone who can take a hint. It must be a keepsake of his family.’ Chae Nayun finished the rest of water without waiting for Kim Hajin’s answer.
Meanwhile, Kim Hajin stared at Chae Nayun with the eyes of a dead fish.
“I never said you could drink it all.”
The next morning arrived. Birds chirped and the howling of monsters rang out from the forest.
Waking up to the noise, I got up from my bed. Though I felt a bit stiff, this much was a luxury on this island.
I left the tent to bask in the sunlight. However, no sunlight shone down outside the tent.
“…Is it a polar night?”
The outside world was that dark. It was likely because of the magicians of the island’s central tower.
I looked around. On the ground, Chae Nayun was buried in her sleeping bag, still asleep. Last night must have been cold as she only had her face peeking out. In a way, she looked like a caterpillar.
Suddenly, the seed sitting on my tent table jumped up. By the looks of it, it had already finished its meal. It must have felt my gaze as it began to quiver.
“…Why are you so cute?”
I tickled the seed and wrapped it with a new gauze. Then, I retrieved the tent. In the first place, I had no intention of continually staying in the same place. Chae Nayun was still using the sleeping bag, but well, I could just gift it to her.
Now that cadets were allowed to fight each other, I had no plans to sit still. I planned on picking fights aggressively, especially against dangerous individuals.
Of course, I wasn’t allowed to kill. Some of the Djinns here didn’t even know that they were Djinns, and in reality, they weren’t Djinns yet.
That was the difference between a Djinn who contracted another Djinn and a Djinn who contracted a devil.
In the case of the former, Djinns were supplied with magic power by their contracted Djinns, so they could avoid going berserk, and their contracts were also less tight. These Djinns were often treated like expendables, being abandoned or killed if they failed their mission.
On the other hand, Djinns who directly contracted devils were rarer.
Examples of such Djinns were Sven, Yun Hyun, and Lancaster. But because directly contracting devils caused large side-effects, the only ‘cadet’ on this island who managed to overcome this side-effect was a man named Joo Yeohoon.
“I’ll have to go higher.”
For now, my goal was reaching the World Tree located in the center of this island. Although it had a grandiose name, it was just an extremely big tree. It had its roots in the center of the island, and it was called the World Tree solely because of its size.
In just 24 hours since the start of the exam, Yoo Yeonha managed to form her own group. It was a small team made up of five people with Yoo Yeonha as its leader. Utilizing their strength, Yoo Yeonha was amassing points easily and efficiently.
“Yeonha-ssi, I found someone.”
A sharpshooter named Rose whispered to Yoo Yeonha, but before waiting for Yoo Yeonha’s orders, she drew her bow.
But right when she was about to fire, Yoo Yeonha’s whip flew in like lightning and snatched her bow away.
Yoo Yeonha glared at Rose with stern eyes.
“…You can’t touch that man.”
“Eh? I-Isn’t that person rank 934?”
Rankings didn’t change until after the final exam, and in accordance with the final exam’s rule, every cadet was wearing a nametag with their rank on it. But even without a nametag, the man Rose was aiming at was someone most people knew.
He was known for his gun-related Gift among other things, the rank 934 cadet, Kim Hajin.
“No, you can’t win against him.”
However, Yoo Yeonha lightly cut her off.
At that moment, Kim Hajin made his move. Almost as if to save Yoo Yeonha from having to explain, he climbed up a giant tree with impeccable movements.
After reaching the peak of a 150-meter tree in a few breaths, he went into the dense leaves.
This series of unrealistic maneuvers caused Rose to be dumbstruck.
Yoo Yeonha spoke with a stern voice.
“See that? I just saved your life, Rose-ssi. To that man, a rank is just a number. If you had let go of that bowstring, you would have lost for sure. Not only that, the rest of us would have also been in trouble.”
“There are many hidden dragons in this world. It’s the same reason that the Hero Association can’t do anything about hunters of the Vast Expanse. Next time, don’t do anything before I give the order.”
Rose nodded like a child being scolded by her teacher.
“Also, about that man being uncharacteristically strong, keep it a secret.”
However, Rose couldn’t help but question this order. Yoo Yeonha gave a brief explanation.
“Because he might become one of our family members. For the record, I like people with heavy mouths.”
Essence of the Strait, the world’s second ranked guild.
For Rose who was a rank 68 cadet, it was too enticing of an offer.
“Ah, yes! I’ll keep it a secret! Until death!”
After generously smiling at Rose who was as obedient as a dog, Yoo Yeonha stared at the giant tree Kim Hajin climbed up.
It was a monstrous tree that even the most courageous people would hesitate to climb. Just looking up at the tree would cause one’s neck to hurt, but Kim Hajin had climbed to its peak in mere minutes.
‘Should I modify Kim Hajin’s physical ability rating?’ Yoo Yeonha began to think about her report.
At that moment, a message arrived on her smartwatch, ending her thought.
“Ah, Ijin-ssi contacted us. Let’s go back.”
People who shared locations with each other could also message each other.
This was likely something that Yoo Yeonha was the first to find out.