After lunch, when the awkward atmosphere caused by Evandel’s Seed died down, Rachel offered me to team up. She brought up the task cooperation team that she formed with Kim Suho and Chae Nayun in the original story.
I couldn’t help but smile.
“You’re saying the same thing as Chae Nayun.”
“Ah… Did Chae Nayun make the same offer before me?”
“No, it’s not that. Anyways, I like the idea.”
I didn’t see a reason to refuse. After all, it was Rachel.
But when I accepted, Rachel made a worried face as though she had something on her mind.
“Oh right… um, there’s someone I formed something like a team with.”
Because I was watching her from the beginning, I already knew who she was talking about.
“Have you heard of Joo Yeohoon…?”
I replied confidently.
“Don’t mind him.”
I didn’t explain things to her in detail, but I had already taken care of him. To be precise, I gave him to an even stronger psycho.
“Don’t worry about it. Just team up with me.”
I made a meaningful smile.
No matter how powerful Djinns who contracted with devils were, there were cadets they couldn’t touch due to a few reasons.
And Shin Jonghak was most certainly one of such cadets.
After offering Rachel to Lancaster’s Djinns, Joo Yeohoon hunted monsters to rack up points before returning to his base.
However, the base he returned to wasn’t the base he knew. What should have been a cozy abode emanating the smell of wild boar and deer was now the complete scene of a disaster.
The grass hut he built was collapsed, and the blood and flesh of animals littered the ground.
For a moment, he was worried he came to the wrong place.
However, a man was sitting arrogantly and proudly in the center of the mess as if to pronounce to the world that he was the culprit behind this chaos. Just like an emperor sitting on his throne, he was fiddling with the exam smartwatches he had stolen.
Joo Yeohoon stared at the man blankly.
The man was the first to speak. His deep voice resounded imposingly.
He placed the smartwatches to the side, then threw a tree branch at Joo Yeohoon. Like an arrow, the tree branch shot past Joo Yeohoon’s face and dug into a tree behind him.
Joo Yeohoon swallowed hard. He knew very well how dangerous this man was. With a trembling voice, he called the man’s name.
Joo Yeohoon had a relationship with Shin Jonghak since the Agent Military Academy, a bad relationship. Part of the reason he contracted a devil was Shin Jonghak.
However, Joo Yeohoon couldn’t do anything about the current situation. Not only was he unconfident in winning in a one on one battle, he could see some of the strongest cadets standing behind Shin Jonghak. The newest star in martial arts, Kim Horak, the wavebreaker swordsman, Jin Hanjun, archer Oh Jihoon…
“Looks like the trash can talk.”
Shin Jonghak sneered as he held up his spear. Then, his expression contorted to a fearsome frown.
“If you got held back, you should’ve stayed in the trashcan where you belong. Why try to overstep your position?”
Joo Yeohoon couldn’t understand what was happening.
He glanced at the tree branch Shin Jonghak threw at him. Written on its side was a coordinate of his group’s base and a provocative sentence.
Joo Yeohoon clicked his tongue.
“I’m not the one who sent this. It’s someone else…”
Shin Jonghak cut him off. He wasn’t stupid. He had already come to the conclusion that someone with a grudge against Joo Yeohoon had sent the tree branch to him.
However, what displeased Shin Jonghak was that he was being bothered because a trash did something to earn someone’s grudge.
“I don’t care.”
As though those words were a command or a sign, his lackeys slowly approached Joo Yeohoon.
“I just don’t like trash like you. Damn snakes who only know how to flicker their tongues in the shadows.”
Shin Jonghak held up his spear.
5 vs 1.
Joo Yeohoon didn’t have a choice.
He quickly turned around and began to run. Shin Jonghak immediately sent his spear flying.
On a high ground slightly north of the center of the island stood the Overseer Tower, the place where exam overseers and eliminated cadets rested.
In this exam, overseers not only examined cadets’ abilities but also their characters. The rule that cadets could fight other cadets was necessary since Djinns were the main enemies of Heroes, but cadets would be penalized if they stole points in an inhumane way.
On the other hand, Yun Seung-Ah, who was participating in the exam as an overseer, was currently looking out of the Overseer Tower’s window.
“Are eight drones not enough? You’re looking out the window too?”
Then, a Latino man named Vieri approached her.
“Who are you thinking about?”
He looked like he would speak Spanish, but his sweet Korean accent showed that he lived in Korea for a long time. Yun Seung-Ah glanced at Vieri, then spoke.
“Mm? Who’s that? Weren’t you a fan of Kim Suho?”
Yun Seung-Ah smiled. Kim Suho was, of course, her number one priority. This was an unquestionable fact, and up until now, Yun Seung-Ah had only watched Kim Suho. She had even revealed herself to him to let him know that she was watching.
However, information that everyone knew couldn’t be called information.
For now, she planned to focus on finding hidden talents.
“I received an interesting piece of information.”
“Information? What is it?”
“How can I tell you? It’s top secret.”
The Korean Peninsula was a tiny piece of land, but numerous guilds were concentrated in it.
To survive, not fall behind, and surpass other guilds, a fierce battle of information and politics went on between them.
The same matter applied to a guild’s internal affairs, especially to a guild like Essence of the Strait with divided factions.
Using this power struggle inside Essence of the Strait, Yun Seung-Ah managed to steal an interesting piece of information.
“That makes me more curious. Can’t you just tell me? We’re in the same guild after all.”
“Who can trust your big mouth?”
Two days, Yun Seung-Ah obtained a top-secret document called Yoo Yeonha Report. In this report, Yoo Yeonha evaluated Kim Hajin higher than Kim Suho.
…Of course, if a normal person said something like that, he would be treated as a madman. However, the writer of this report was special.
Yoo Yeonha. Although she was young, she was more clever than a fox, and she was one of the closest people to Kim Hajin. While she might be inexperienced, she wouldn’t have submitted such a report without thorough research.
“So? Are you going to go check him out?”
“Mmm… I will later when I have time.”
Of course, it could be that this information was fake. However, Yun Seung-Ah had already discovered something strange about Kim Hajin, the magic power of light.
Kim Hajin had already awakened the magic power of light. For a cadet like that, she was willing to risk her time.
“So, what are you going to do?”
Vieri asked. Yun Seung-Ah pointed at the nametag on her chest.
[Rank 307 Yun Seung-Ah]
This rank wasn’t the cadet rank, but the world rank. Even this rank didn’t take into account her accomplishments from last year, so once the updated ranking came in on July, she predicted it would be about 50 ranks higher.
“This is worth 200 points, right?”
“Ha, you’re going to use that as bait? I doubt anyone will fall for it. They’ll just run.”
“…Really? Then I guess I’ll just have to hide and watch.”
Yun Seung-Ah smirked without denying the matter.
Because of the darkness blanketing the island, it was hard to tell whether it was day or night.
Rachel, who volunteered to be the night watch, glanced at the huge tent next to her. She couldn’t see inside of it, but this also meant she wasn’t visible to whoever was inside.
She rummaged through her pocket and took out a bullet. Under the thick darkness, the tiny platinum bullet sparkled from the moonlight.
She still couldn’t believe that such a tiny thing protected her.
Placing the bullet in her pocket, she fell into thought. She was convinced that it was Kim Hajin who saved her. After all, he was the only cadet who used a gun.
The question she had was why he denied it and how he knew that she was in trouble.
Was it because of the cold wind? Or was it because of the pale moonlight?
Rachel ended up recalling a memory from a long time ago. The image of a man smiling gently surfaced in her head. This wasn’t in Korea but in England.
—No matter what happens, I will protect you, princess. Of course, I’m sure there are many more who wish to protect you.
However, the man returned to her as the most fearsome assassin.
Lancaster. Every time she thought about him, a part of her heart trembled as though it was freezing.
Today’s ambush was likely his doing as well.
Distressed, Rachel buried her face between her knees.
‘Should I have died with them back then?’ Sorrowful emotions resurfaced in her heart.
I woke up on my tent’s bed. There was no sunlight shining through. The outside was just as dark as before I went to bed.
Was it going to be dark for all five days?
I yawned as I left the tent.
Rachel, who volunteered to be the night watch, was sitting modestly by the table, waiting for morning.
Was it because I was half-asleep? She looked like an elf. For a moment, I stared at her in a daze.
Rachel tilted her head as if she found my gaze strange, then spoke.
“…What’s today’s menu?”
At those words, I snapped back to reality. What was I thinking about a character I created?
“Ah, um, let me wash my face first.”
I trudged to the river, then washed my face. Next, I dried my face with a towel and walked back.
I had overprepared for the exam, so I was overflowing with food.
Since we had to hunt monsters today, I went with beef. To make sure Rachel was fine with it, I turned towards her.
But before I could open my mouth to ask her what she thought, I saw her staring at me fixedly and was taken aback. No, to be exact, she was staring at my magic pouch, which contained the food.
It seemed she really was hungry.
“How’s the beef?”
She replied instantly.
I took out two pieces of sirloin steak I had marinated beforehand.
After heating up the pan, I placed the two thick pieces on it. As I said before, my aunt used to own a BBQ place. I lived by myself for 4 years, and although it wasn’t something to brag about, I worked as a cook in the army.
In other words, I was quite an experienced cook.
After adding sliced onions and paprika to the pan, I added a special sauce, which immediately emanated a delicious fragrance.
I plated the steak, then gave it to Rachel. Rachel stared at the steak with her eyes sparkling.
“Would you like some rice as well?”
Rachel smiled brightly and nodded.
I took her plate and put some rice on it before giving it back to her. After taking the plate, she waited patiently with a knife and fork in each hand. It seemed she wanted me to eat first.
The meal began after I cut a piece of the steak off.
Perhaps because of the circumstance, it tasted especially good. Not only was it juicy, it practically melted when it entered my mouth. I bought the steak out of curiosity because the packaging said ‘grade-1 magic power beef raised in highly dense mana environment—’, but it seemed I made the right choice. It was worth its high price.
Our breakfast ended in 10 minutes, just like before.
After drinking some water to rinse my mouth, I checked my exam smartwatch.
For some reason, I had 4 more points than yesterday.
“A monster came while I was on watch. I know I said we should separate tasks and take points from monsters for ourselves, I thought I should split what I got while you were sleeping.”
“Ah, thank you.”
Thanks to her, I obtained more free points.
“Then let’s split up now. We should go hunting.”
I spoke as I got up. Rachel followed suit.
The third day of the exam went smoothly.
Even without the Desert Eagle, I could hunt monsters to some degree, thanks to my Gift’s increased grade and Aether. Aether adhered to the training handgun without being found out and strengthened its power. Of course, even with that, I had to avoid monsters above low-intermediate rank grade 6.
In any case, I walked along the forest and hunted comfortably. Just like always, I shot from a distance, outside of danger.
Then, I discovered a dimly lit lake.
Places like this were gold mines.
There should be alligator monsters in it, which should give bonus points as they were ‘ambush monsters’.
It was easy for me to lure them out. I just had to shine a light bright enough to blanket the entire lake. And I happened to learn how to do so not too long ago. Though, strictly speaking, I couldn’t say I learned it.
It was the magic Yoo Yeonha said no one else could perform.
With Stigma’s magic power, I created a sphere of light radiating brilliantly. The white clump of light floated up, lighting up the surroundings.
As soon as I sent the Light Sphere above the lake, I felt a faint movement behind me.
“Who is it!?”
I yelled loudly, and then the presence disappeared.
Whoever it was, they must have been quite skilled to escape my eyes all this time.
But now that I noticed, there was no way to avoid my eyes. I peered through the tall grass, my sight expanding far beyond the level of humans. Then, I caught sight of a person.
…It was Chae Nayun.
She slowly backed off, then came to a stop. It seemed she planned to resume tailing me once the situation died down.
I shot a bullet at the ground in front of her feet.
Chae Nayun’s short scream rang out in the forest.