I could hear their communication. Immediately, I felt a chill run down my back.
“…Are you sure?”
The Caucasian man asked again. However, the answer was the same. The Caucasian man calmly nodded, gripping his greatsword. The baldy grinned as he held up his double-edged axe.
“Blame your curiosity.”
The moment the Caucasian man muttered, the surroundings changed. A tide of darkness shot up from the right side, engulfing everyone.
Kim Suho disappeared into the darkness, and I was left alone with the bald barbarian.
It was an isolation barrier.
“…Haha, big bro always leaves me with the boring work.”
Boring work. He was obviously referring to me, but I couldn’t refute him either.
Two golden axes were engraved on the chest region of his leather armor. It was a symbol used by Heroes to denote their rank. Two golden weapons indicated intermediate rank. Since there was nothing else other than the two golden axes, he was a grade 9 hero.
“…Why is an intermediate rank Hero doing something like this to a cadet?”
Although I knew the answer, I asked anyway. The baldy smiled without replying. Unlike what his appearance might suggest, he didn’t seem to be the talkative type.
The baldy collected his magic power silently. A powerful current of magic power rose up around his axe, heating up the space within the isolation barrier.
Sweat formed on the tip of my nose, and a cold sweat dripped down my back.
I couldn’t win against that baldy. His axe could easily split my skull in half, and with the isolation barrier surrounding us, I had no way to run.
But there had to be something I could do….
Suddenly, I had a flash of insight.
I didn’t know much about that baldy’s personality.
But from his barbaric appearance, I could surmise that he was belligerent, prideful, and reckless.
It wasn’t a really logical deduction, but people like him usually looked down on their opponents. He was a typical cliché character that would have appeared several times in novels I’ve read and written.
I sighed almost subconsciously.
I bent down and pretended to pick up a rock as I molded Aether into the rock.
95% of Aether was turned into a rock, while the remaining 5% was used to form a transparent thread that wrapped around my wrist and was tied to the rock.
Then, I muttered softly.
The result was 30%.
Although it was above the average, I was less fortunate than normal. The difference in 14% was huge in practice.
“What are you going to do with that?”
Seeing me holding the rock, the baldy showed interest. I fell into thought. Should I just throw it at him? Or tick him off a little more?
“…I just thought this would be enough.”
I chose the latter. Immediately, his veins popped up in anger.
My lips dried up.
Will he charge at me in anger? Or will he examine me more closely?
“Where is your confidence coming from?”
The baldy widened his eyes and stood on guard. He seemed to be searching me for hidden weapons. Of course, with not even a tiny movement of magic power within my body, the baldy could only frown.
“…You little brat.”
I stared at him as I fiddled with the Aether rock. The baldy stood still with his double-bladed axe. Though he called me a brat condescendingly, he seemed to be wondering what I would do.
“I’m gonna throw this.”
Since he was letting me have the first attack, I accepted it gladly.
I threw the rock with all my strength. It flew quickly and accurately.
However, before the rock could reach his head, he leaned slightly to the side. The rock easily flew by him.
A big smile emerged on the baldy’s face.
However, I wasn’t disappointed. This was within my expectations.
He easily dodged the rock. Me acting like there was something about the rock had forced him to dodge it. Since he could see that there was nothing to it, he undoubtedly had his guard down now.
I had saved Stigma’s magic power for this exact moment.
I poured all of Stigma’s magic power into the Aether thread that connected the rock and my wrist. Then, I yanked it with all the strength I could muster.
Stigma’s magic power flared up explosively on the transparent Aether thread. This burning of magic power could undoubtedly be seen with the naked eye.
Immediately, the leisurely smile on the baldy’s face disappeared. Taken aback by the sudden eruption of magic power, he readied his qi reinforcement. However, it was too late.
Before his qi reinforcement could fully form, the rock that flew by his head came back with even more power, striking his head like lightning.
With the sound of a rock cracking, the light disappeared from the baldy’s eyes.
His muscular body fell to the ground.
I staggered toward him. He wasn’t dead yet. Djinns had abnormally high recuperative power. I had to end him quickly…
I aimed my gun loaded with a light bullet at the back of his head. I didn’t have the magic power to transform it into the shotgun mode.
Without even a moment of hesitation, I pulled the trigger.
The light bullet struck his head squarely.
However, the bullet was blocked by his dense skull and was unable to pierce through.
The baldy suddenly raised his head.
He then let out a loud roar. The soundwave struck my stomach. Although Aether formed a barrier before it was too late, a huge shock shook my body nonetheless.
I was sent flying back and struck the wall. Immediately, my vision grew thin. A mere sound attack without physical contact transmitted shock that seemingly ruptured my organs.
“…You son of… a bitch…”
The baldy staggered up as he cursed. His face didn’t seem human. His skin turned pitch black, his eyes were glowing red, and most importantly, sheep horns had grown on his head.
I closed my eyes and sighed.
No matter how lucky I was, this was the end of the line. I should have ended things before it got to this stage, but I couldn’t.
“I wasn’t going to use this, but you…”
At that moment, the sound of something cutting through flesh rang out in the empty cave.
Puzzled, I opened my eyes.
A black blade going through the baldy’s chest.
The baldy stared at the blade piercing through him, then fell down and lost consciousness. Before his body could touch the ground, it transformed into black dust and scattered.
In place of the baldy was Chameleon Troupe’s Boss.
Stunned, I stared at her in a daze.
She let out a dry cough, then spoke briefly.
“Nice to meet you.”
Boss stared at me with a very calm expression.
Chameleon Troupe’s boss. I somewhat understood why she was here. Chameleon Troupe was supposed to interfere with Packhorse Master.
But what I couldn’t understand was why she kept appearing in front of me.
“…We’re running into each other rather often, huh.”
Boss answered sincerely at my somewhat sarcastic remark.
“Because I was watching over you.”
Boss approached me silently, then handed me a business card. This time, it wasn’t a guild business card belonging to Li Xiaopeng.
[Jeronimo Mercenary – Yi Saeyeon.]
Jeronimo Mercenary. Although it was a mercenary group second only to Vast Expanse, in truth it was Chameleon Troupe’s disguise. In other words, Jeronimo Mercenary Group was Chameleon Troupe.
My eyes widened.
I wasn’t pretending to be surprised. I truly was.
One of the important events I wrote was unfolding in front of my eyes in a completely different way.
「…She stood before Shin Jonghak. He already knew who she was as he had seen her many times before.
“Nice to see you.”
After appearing out of nowhere, she greeted him out of the blue. Shin Jonghak laughed, unable to comprehend the situation.
“Aren’t you showing yourself too frequently?”
“I couldn’t help it.”
She made a small smile.
“Because I was watching over you.”
Then, she handed Shin Jonghak a small business card.
When Shin Jonghak saw this, his eyes glimmered with a bright light.」
Yoo Yeonha’s room, Dorm 6’s penthouse.
Three people were sitting in a circle, watching each other silently.
None of them wanted to lose an inch, leading to the creation of this ill-matched group.
It all started with what Yoo Yeonha said out of courtesy.
‘Since we ran into each other, would you like to come for a night snack at my place?’
Anyone could tell these were empty words. In reality, there was only a single bag of chips on the table in front of them.
However, Rachel accepted this offer.
“…Would you like some juice?”
Unable to endure the awkward atmosphere, Yoo Yeonha made an offer, which Rachel refused.
After that, another 10 minutes of silence continued.
When the bored Chae Nayun sprawled down on the couch and scratched her belly half-asleep…
“I want to ask.”
Yoo Yeonha opened her mouth. She was talking to Rachel.
“How did you find out?”
It was a vague question, but Rachel knew what she was referring to. She was asking about Kim Hajin.
“…I found out naturally.”
At Rachel’s nonchalant answer, Yoo Yeonha smiled somewhat scornfully.
“But you don’t know why that person is hiding his power, right?”
Rachel closed her mouth. She was convinced that Kim Hajin was hiding his power, but she didn’t know why.
At that moment, Chae Nayun woke up from her sleep and interjected.
“Hey, what are you talking about? “
Then, Yoo Yeonha made a triumphant smile.
“Well, that’s not something that’s easy to find out.”
Rachel glared at Yoo Yeonha, annoyed by the triumphant air she put on. Yoo Yeonha got up leisurely. She then brought orange juice and poured it into wine glasses.
Staring at the glass of orange juice, Rachel asked.
“Does knowing that change anything?”
“It changes everything. Isn’t that obvious? It’s like how Essence of the Strait is bigger than most government guilds.”
“No, what I’m talking about is…”
In truth, Rachel wasn’t too concerned about Kim Hajin. However, she didn’t want to lose to Yoo Yeonha.
“Rather than finding out about it myself, it’s better to wait until that person tells me about it himself.”
Yoo Yeonha’s face immediately turned cold. Her investigation had been done in private. Kim Hajin didn’t ask for it, nor was it for the good of the public.
“At least, that’s what I think.”
With that, Rachel got up from her seat.
“Then I’ll be off. It’s gotten too late.”
Rachel walked to the front door. Yoo Yeonha glared at her exiting form with strange eyes.
“…Wait, why am I the only one out of the loop? Hey, Yoo Yeonha, are you sure you were speaking in Korean?”
Meanwhile, Chae Nayun grumbled in frustration.
The barrier shattered.
Soon, Kim Suho appeared with a haggard expression. James was sprawled on the ground, unconscious, and Kim Suho was holding a branch in his hand.
I immediately had a hunch.
That Kim Suho won by himself.
Of course, Misteltein was an amazing weapon even without being awakened. Since that Djinn was also a sword user, Kim Suho would have been well-suited to fighting him.
I spoke to Kim Suho.
“…So did you.”
We looked at each other and laughed.
But soon, Kim Suho put on a serious face.
“…Anyways, Hajin, I don’t think this is an ordinary branch.”
“Oh yeah? To me, it looks amazing at first glance.”
“Take a seat.”
First, I sat Kim Suho down. I had trouble staying standing as I felt a bit dizzy.
Both physically and psychologically… I was quite exhausted.