Chapter 71. Break (3)


My summer break was a series of hellish training.
Although I invested in strengthening my equipment with Random Consolidation System, that didn’t mean I gave up on training my body. I formed a workout routine using posts on Hero Community, and I put the effort in to match my perseverance stat.

A week went by in a breeze.
My body’s growth was still stunted. However, Aether had finished its awakening.

===
[Aether - Awakened]
[Mystic – Formless] [Evolving]
A corporeal, but formless, weapon. Adheres to its master or his weapon, reinforcing their strength.
A portion of its potential was awakened through a mystical elemental’s power.

—Master Selection
*Will not adhere to another being once a master is chosen.
—Physical Body Reinforcement
*Increases all variable stats of its owner by 0.7 points.
—Weapon Reinforcement
*Adheres to its master’s weapon and strengthens the weapon’s attack power. Aether itself can also form a weapon. (Current weapon-form Aether rank – ‘high rank’)
—Detail Materialization
*Aether can manifest color and texture (cannot be too complex).
—Evolving Weapon
All of the above functions evolves with its owner. Depending on the state of Aether’s awakening, other functions can develop.
===

To summarize, Physical Body Materialization’s variable stat boost increased from 0.6 to 0.7, and it awakened a new function called ‘Detail Materialization’.

I quite liked this new function.
In the original story, Aether only had two colors, white or blue.
As such, weapons formed with Aether were noticeable, being either entirely white or blue.

But with Detail Materialization, it would be different.

An ordinary knife, ordinary hammer, ordinary gun… though, it said that it couldn’t be too complex, so maybe a gun wouldn't work.

“…Would it?”

It didn’t hurt to try.
When I thought about forming a gun, Aether squirmed around, trying to change to the shape of a gun. In the end, something went wrong and it ended up looking like a croissant.

“So it doesn’t work.”

Next was a knife.
Aether managed to form a knife without difficulty. A 35cm long blade and a black plastic handle…. I grabbed the knife to feel its texture. Just like I thought, it was no different than an ordinary knife.
The keyword was ‘ordinary’.

“Evandel, Uncle is going to go out for a bit.”

“…Un.”

“I’ll bring back yummy food, so don’t play with that for too long. If you get sleepy, just sleep.”

Evandel was molding her magic power as though it was a clay dough. Her instinct as a witch was telling her to make ghosts. I was a bit glad she was playing well by herself….

“Un~”

“Make cute animals with that, alright?”

Please don’t make humans.

“I know, I know.”

Evandel blocked her ears and shook her head. She seemed focused and didn’t want me bothering her. For some reason, it felt like she was already coming to resemble Rachel.
I stroked Evandel’s head and left my room.

Perhaps because it was a break, Cube was empty. It was only 9:00, but there were a few rooms with their lights on. I enjoyed this scenery quite a lot.
I moved to a nearby forest.
After walking into the middle of the forest, I stopped and held my Aether knife.
Then, I murmured quietly.

“Scan.”

In an instant, the number ‘31’ appeared on the knife’s blade before disappearing.
It didn’t look any different from the outside, but Aether’s output should be 31% stronger.

“….”

I stared at a boulder about 200 meters away. It was large and looked hard.

“Huup!”

I threw the knife at the boulder.
Drawing a streak of light, the knife reached the boulder but didn’t get stuck in it. Instead, it went through it. Unable to withstand the shock, the boulder split in half. The knife continued flying after tearing through the boulder, then flew back into my hand when I gave the thought.

“Oho.”

Detail Materialization turned Aether into an ordinary-looking weapon that wasn’t so ordinary in power.

“Not bad.”

Weapon artifacts scattered around the world had extraordinary outward appearance befitting their lofty status. The depth of history and time was something that couldn’t be hidden.
But the weapon in my hand was different. No matter how you looked at it, it was an ordinary, modern knife. Of course, although it could penetrate a boulder, it wasn’t guaranteed to break through a qi reinforcement. But, an ordinary outer appearance induced carelessness, and a moment of carelessness would be enough to deal a lethal blow.

**


Noon.
The traveling club gathered again under a blazing summer sun.
The meeting place was the Seoul Portal Station. Chae Nayun, Kim Suho, and Yoo Yeonha had already arrived and were waiting for other cadets to come.

“God, it’s so hot. When are they coming?”

Chae Nayun grumbled as she fanned herself with her hand. Yoo Yeonha muttered from next to her.

“Who told you to wear the cadet uniform?”

“….”

Rather than wearing a 3 million won jacket that provided temperature control, Chae Nayun wore her cadet uniform, thinking Kim Suho would do the same.
But in reality, Kim Suho wore a white shirt with black slacks. It suited him so well that she couldn’t even get angry.

“Oh look, here comes another cadet uniform.”

Yoo Yeonha pointed to a distant place, and Chae Nayun turned her gaze. It was Kim Hajin. He was also wearing his cadet uniform, but with a black jacket on top of it.

“…How is he not burning in that thing?”

However, unlike what Chae Nayun thought, Kim Hajin was feeling great. What he was wearing was the Cloth Armor gifted by Rachel, which had a temperature control functionality.
Kim Hajin walked up to the others.

“Hey, Hajin.”

Kim Suho waved his hand and greeted him.

“Yeah.”

Kim Hajin nodded.
Looking back and forth between the two of them, Chae Nayun smirked. They were just too awkward.
At that moment, Oh Hanhyun yelled as he clapped.

“Now that Hajin-ssi is here, let’s go.”

**


After checking in our passport at the Portal Station, we arrived in London.
It was my first time being here, and I found the scenery both crowded and beautiful.

“As you all know, we will be going to Clancy Islet today.”

Clancy Islet was a gathering place for the European upper class, known for its gambling, shopping, fine dining, and entertainment. In a way, it was similar to America’s Las Vegas.

“Hmm, good, very good.”

Chae Nayun revealed her excitement as she clenched her fists.

“We have free time, right?”

“Yes, until 7:00 tonight. There’s a big event going on tonight, and that’s why we’re going to Clancy Islet. When I contacted them about coming to watch, they happily said yes.”

Just like Oh Hanhyun said, there was a big event planned for tonight. It was so big that it would draw all sorts of unwanted flies.
…No, they were too strong to be called flies. Perhaps it was better to call them beasts.

“Alright, let’s go.”

I began walking with the rest of the group.
After following along the Thames River for about 10 minutes, we could see an island floating in the sky.
It was about 4.2 square kilometers in size, floating at about 700 meters in the air.

This was the floating island, Clancy Islet, created using the English government’s ‘buoyancy stone’. This island of riches generated close to 30% of England’s tourism profit.

“Wow, it’s been so long. I must have been 11 when I was last here.”

Chae Nayun smiled feeling reminiscent. However, her face quickly darkened. It must have been because her older brother was with her the last time.

“It’s my first time here. Are you going to be our guide?”

Kim Suho asked. Chae Nayun became energized again and retorted, “Of course!”
Everyone continued to chatter, and I walked as I listened in half-heartedly.

“Hajin, have you been here before?”

Then suddenly, Kim Suho asked me.

“No.”

“Oh, then two of us are newbies.”

“I guess we are.”

While I talked with Kim Suho, we arrived at Clancy Islet’s entrance. There was a Portal build on the Thames River that led up to the island, and it was easy to see that there was stricter security around it.

“Here is my cadet ID and an invitation from Jamie Kim-ssi.”

Oh Hanhyun approached one of the guards in front of the entrance and gave him his cadet ID and the invitational letter.”

“Wait here.”

The guard went away to confirm the invitation letters authenticity, then came back to let us in. Of course, we had to go through a baggage check and body scanner to make sure we weren’t carrying any weapons.

“How strict.”

Clancy Islet had everything to offer in regards to money: casinos, dueling arenas, auction houses, academic seminars, lectures, corporate keynotes, etc. It wasn’t an exaggeration to say Clancy Islet was the reason England was the second most powerful country in Europe.

“Oh right, we can go to the casino, right?”

Chae Nayun asked. She seemed to be itching to go already.

“Yes, Cube’s cadets are treated as adults here.”

Being a Cube’s cadet was a great status as it allowed minors to do things minors normally couldn’t. Furthermore, if a problem arose because of it, the country would take responsibility.
Of course, that didn’t mean we could commit crimes.

“Nice!”

Chae Nayun clenched her fists triumphantly.
However, I knew her excitement would disappear in just three hours.
Chae Nayun brought 300 million won today, which was half the amount she had saved up from her allowances. She should have planned to spend 15% of it on gambling and the other 85% on shopping.
But she would blow all of it in just three hours of gambling.
Even as the original author, I didn’t know which was more absurd, having 300 million won from allowances or losing all of it in just three hours.

“Huu.”

I tried to maintain my cool as much as possible, but I was also nervous.
I was itching too. To me, casinos were gold mines. I didn’t plan on going overboard and drawing unnecessary attention on myself, but I didn’t plan on going home empty handed either.
Before tonight’s incident, I planned to make as much as I could.

“Let’s go in.”

We walked into the Portal.

In the blink of an eye, the scenery changed.

A giant fountain, flamboyant casino hotel, auction house, fancy restaurant, and fleeting clouds. It was a paradise on earth.

“Casino! Who wants to go to the casino!?”

Chae Nayun shouted excitedly. Yoo Yeonha and Kim Suho had no choice but to go with her.
I also planned on going to the casino, but I didn’t follow Chae Nayun.
Kim Suho asked me.

“Hajin, where are you gonna go?”

“…I’m tired, so I’ll rest a bit in my hotel room and grab lunch afterward.”

*

Although that’s what I said, I headed straight to the casino after I dropped off my bag in my room.
It was my first time coming to a casino, and it was even more amazing than I imagined.

“…Ooh.”

In a large area with no mirrors or clocks, the sound of spinning slot machines resounded, and various languages went back and forth.

‘What should I do? The slot machine? Or grab one of the tables? Ah, I have to get some chips first.’

First, I headed to the currency exchange. I brought 10 million won in cash to exchange.

“Can I get your ID?”

The cashier spoke in fluent Korean with a bright smile. I gave her my cadet ID. The cashier converted my money into chips without batting an eye. Staring at her, I asked casually.

“How long have you been working here?”

The cashier, or rather Jain who was disguised as a cashier, replied with a smile.

“It’s been six years.”

“So it’s been a while.”

“Yes.”

I took my chips and turned around.

**


‘Do I go for a slot machine jackpot? Or do I empty out a dealer?”

“…Ah, so close!”

When I was pondering between two choices, a familiar voice rang out.
It was Chae Nayun.

“You really lost by an inch.”

Chae Nayun was sitting at a seven-card stud table.
There were many different poker tables in this casino, but only three of them were for the seven-card stud variant. But because seven-card stud was the only poker variant she knew, she sat down at a seven-card stud table as if it was the most obvious choice.

“Man, I almost had it….”

Hearing her dejected voice, a man sitting next to her consoled her.

“You were close, haha.”

Close my ass.
It was easy to spot a pushover like Chae Nayun. All four people sitting with her on that table were working together to scam her.
From the distance, I could see that she lost 10 million won in her last pot. That seemed to have been too much for her as she tried to get up.

“I’m leaving now.”

“Haha, see ya. But well, I feel bad taking money from a kid. Here, I’ll give 25% of it back.”

The leader of the four provoked her.
Bert, the scammer.
He was a tall Caucasian man, who rarely suffered a loss in my novel.

“What? It’s only pocket change. I can make it back whenever I want.”

Chae Nayun sat back down, her competitive spirit burning.
Baring his sly teeth, Bert handed a stack of chips to Chae Nayun.

“Come on, don’t be like that. Here, just take this and go. I’m saying this to you, young lady.”

“Screw that, let’s go again.”

…Just like that, Chae Nayun fell into their trap.
She won the next two pots, earning 3 million won in total, then lost 8 million on the third. She earned 2 million on the fourth, then lost 20 million on the fifth and sixth.

“Ah~ so close.”

On the eight, Bert lost on purpose. Chae Nayun laughed, not knowing that he was only pretending.

“Please, I was obviously going to win that one.”

“…Maybe?”

Although Bert was a scammer, he wasn’t cheating at the moment. Casino cards were all specially made artifacts so that no Hero could see through it (except me, of course) or pull some sort of a trick.

Bert was only reading the faint changes in Chae Nayun’s expression to read her hands. Since you carried more cards in your hand in a seven-card stud, Chae Nayun simply didn’t stand a chance.

“Ehew. I fold.”

The rounds continued until it eventually reached the eleventh round.
Chae Nayun folded with two pairs in her hand.
Bert had one pair, and his teammate had a queen high.

“I fold too.”

However, Bert folded to provoke Chae Nayun even more. Then, he asked his teammate with a furtive smile.

“Hey, can I see your hand? I’m curious what you had.”

“Haha, it really wasn’t my pot to win….”

When his teammate showed his queen high hand, Chae Nayun’s face turned red.

“Aw, come on!”

Now that things had come this far, no one could stop Chae Nayun.
In just two hours from now, Chae Nayun would lose all her money, then hole up in her hotel room to cry.
Of course, I wasn’t interested in the grievances Chae Nayun would face. However, I was interested in the scammer Bert.
I slowly approached their table, then tapped on Chae Nayun’s shoulder.

“Hey, stand up. I’ll play here.”

“W-What, when did you get here?”

When I tried to drive Chae Nayun out, the scammers’ faces instantly stiffened.
They were quick to act.

“Ah, I got a phone call. I’ll stop here.”

One member got up, pretending to pick up a call.
Bert then spoke with a smile.

“Looks like there’s an open seat for you.”

“…Can I join in?”

I sat down, pretending not to know what he was doing.
Bert welcomed me with a big smile.

“Of course.”

“Hey, are you sure you have the money? The minimum betting price is 100,000 won.”

“I’m fine, just play.”

The game then resumed with the dealer giving each of us three cards.
Everyone checked their hands, then picked one of their cards to reveal.

“…Hm?”

But not me. I left my cards exactly where the dealer placed them. I didn’t turn the cards over to check what they were.

“Hey, aren’t you going to see your hand?”

One of Bert’s team members asked. It was a bald guy with an intimidating face.
I smiled and nodded.

“No, I’m not.”

Even if I didn’t flip them over, I could see what was on them.
Two queens of hearts and a three of spades.

“You know the rules, kid?”

“What, you think I would be here if I didn’t?”

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe. Singing this song, I picked up one of the cards to reveal.
It was the three of spades.
Immediately, veins bulged upon the man’s temples.

“…What’s your problem?”

“What’s yours?”

“What?”

“Hey.”

Bert quickly cut in.

“Haha, can’t you see what he’s wearing? That’s Cube’s cadet uniform. Let’s be respectful to each other, okay?”

Although that was what he said, Bert’s face was also a bit stiff. From the looks of it, even the almighty Bert must not have expected to see someone who wouldn’t even look at his hand.

But well, technique in gambling only went so far.
Luck was king.

**


“Reporting. Six Djinns from the Evil Society, three Heroes from the Association, and some random scammer. Oh, and there’s one person from the Vast Expanse. It looks like he’s only here to sightsee.”

Jain reported her findings.

Djinns from the Evil Society.
High rank Heroes from the Hero Association.
A hunter from the Vast Expanse.
And the Chameleon Troupe.

With the scale of the event being so big, all sorts of people flocked to it. Jain had only reported on what she could personally confirm. There were undoubtedly many more lurking in the shadows.

“Oh right, there’s also Kim Hajin, who Boss likes.”

Jain ended her report with Kim Hajin.

—…Standby for now. Also, I do not like Kim Hajin.

“Really? I didn’t know.”

Jain ignored the latter part of Boss’ sentence.

“By the way, Kim Hajin saw my face. Do you think he noticed?”

—He needs to concentrate his magic power around his optic nerves to see through your Gift. There’s no reason he would use his magic power while looking at an ordinary person.

“…I guess so. I didn’t feel any movement of magic power either.”

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