Chapter 89. Fake and Real (1)


Two archers shot arrows from the balcony, while four warriors charged forward. The cadet at the core of this ambush was Rachel. She entrusted Yi Jiyoon and Yoo Yeonha to the other three warriors and dealt with Chae Nayun herself.
As Chae Nayun was a beginner who only just recently switched to a sword, Rachel was confident in her ability to defeat Chae Nayun.

“Dammit….”

On the other hand, Chae Nayun clenched her teeth as she exchanged blows with Rachel. She could feel the difference in their skill and experience.
Every time she swung her sword once, Rachel swung her rapier twice. Furthermore, Rachel easily parried attacks she couldn’t parry.
It wasn’t that there were distractions. Other than Rachel, everyone was focused on dealing with Yi Jiyoon and Yoo Yeonha. As a result, Chae Nayun and Rachel were having a purely one-on-one battle.
Clang! Clang!
Every time Chae Nayun’s sword clashed with Rachel’s rapier, Chae Nayun felt like her hands were being torn apart.
As expected, Rachel was an expert who carried immense strength in her thin rapier.
The only thing Chae Nayun could do was to block her attacks.

“Goddammit—!”

However, Chae Nayun didn’t want to lose.
At the very least, she didn’t want to lose to Rachel.
Her desire to win and unyielding spirit led to an incredible eruption of magic power.
Chae Nayun’s magic power exploded, soaring high and gathering around her sword. Her magic power formed a giant sword that was both long and wide.

“…!”

The vicious yet imposing appearance of the giant sword made Rachel flinch.
Chae Nayun swung this giant sword with all her strength.
However, a large movement left room for openings.
Rachel didn’t receive her attack, instead, she rolled to the side and dodged. As a result, Chae Nayun’s sword only hit the ground.
Immediately afterward, something Rachel didn’t expect happened.
KOONG!
Struck with Chae Nayun’s sword, the floor collapsed.
Rachel, who had rolled to the side to avoid Chae Nayun’s attack, fell to the next level without having a chance to be surprised.
Thud.
After landing on the fourth floor, Rachel stared at the hole above her as she felt pain on her waist. Was the floor supposed to collapse that easily?

“Where did you go!?

A lion-like roar rang out from above. Rachel quickly got up. She wanted to return to the battlefield as quickly as possible. Her teammates were too weak to contend with Yoo Yeonha and Chae Nayun without her…

But at that moment, someone appeared in front of her.
Rachel turned stiff.
Wearing a white cadet uniform, which was the symbol of Team White, he held up his sword.
It was Kim Suho.
He had defeated Shin Jonghak on the fifth floor and had climbed up to the fourth floor.
Rachel bit her lips.
From the looks of it, Kim Suho had no intention of going easy. The moment he confirmed that Rachel was in Team Black, he charged toward her. Rachel received his sword with her rapier.
A power on a completely different level pressed down on her, making her tremble.

**


I stopped in front of the sixth-floor bathroom.

“Is there an artifact around here…?”

I even pretended to be looking for artifacts to trick the administrators who should be watching me. I double checked the message Tomer received on my smartwatch.

[There is an administrative center in the B-3 zone of the lowest floor. The item will be left there. The administrative center will be empty from 11:00 to noon, so take it during that time.]

The lowest floor was floor 7. B-3 zone referred to the seventh floor’s room 3 of sector B.

“Artifact~ are you here~?”

I checked the time as I went into the bathroom. Currently, it was 10:45 A.M. I still had about 15 minutes left.

“…Eh? What’s this?”

However, I found a holographic man carrying something in his arms, hiding in a toilet stall.
I opened the stall’s door. The holographic NPC flinched after seeing me. Startled, I also raised my gun.

“There really was one here?”

Without firing, I reached forward and grabbed the artifact. The man looked too real as he became pale in fear.
After having the artifact stolen, the NPC ran away.
With this, I managed to obtain an artifact.
I put the artifact in my pocket, then looked below me.
In the tile right below me, in the toilet stall of the seventh-floor bathroom, Tomer was still lying in wait.

“Hmm.”

I fell into thought. If I wanted to receive this item in place of Tomer, I had to eliminate her. But how?
I began to look around for anything that I could use.
Then, I found it.
I was inside the sixth-floor bathroom. There was a vent connecting this bathroom to the seventh-floor bathroom.

“…Perhaps?”

I looked at my upper arm on which two lines were tattooed in the shape of a cross. Stigma’s magic power could be used in more ways than I imagined.
I sent my will into Stigma.

‘Become a magical smoke that can put Tomer to sleep.”

In an instant, 1.5 streaks of Stigma were used up, and a grey smoke began to rise from my upper arm.
I stared at the smoke in a daze. Surprisingly, the smoke moved according to my will.

“With this…”

I should be able to do it.
I sent the smoke down to the seventh-floor bathroom through the vent.
Using my Thousand-Mile Eyes, I watched the process.
The smoke danced in front of Tomer’s nose. She frowned and tried to wave the smoke away, but the smoke went into her nose, causing her to cough.
Soon, her eyes started to droop and blink. Tomer yawned and checked her watch.
‘I can’t fall asleep.’ Tomer mumbled and tried to get up. However, she collapsed before she could. She had fallen asleep on the toilet.

“Whew.”

Perfect. Now that Tomer was asleep, I could go to the administrative center instead of her.
I went down to the seventh floor.
The moment I arrived, the time became 11 A.M. I headed to the B-3 zone without hesitation. The pathway to the administrative center was hidden under a decorative flower bed.
I went down the pathway.

“No one’s here.”

Just like the message Tomer received indicated, no one was inside the administrative center, which had about twenty monitors like a security room. I approached the large desk in the center of the room. A black box was sitting on top.

===
[Awl of Weakening] [High rank – Enchant] [Poison attribute]
*An awl that weakens the pricked target.
*Enchanted with the high-rank magic effect ‘Weakening’.
===

Inside the black box was an awl that looked special even at first glance.

“Wow, what’s this?”

I was surprised. It was a high-rank enchantment. Although the item itself wasn’t an artifact, it would easily fetch 1.5 billion won in market value.
It was an unexpected gain.

“Kuhum.”

I let out a dry cough and looked around the room.

“From now on this is mine.”

I put the awl in my pocket and left the room. I didn’t forget to delete the CCTV footage by hacking into its server.
Afterward, I left the B-3 zone nonchalantly, then went back up to the sixth floor.

“…Hm?”

But when I arrived on the sixth floor, I was slightly surprised. I found Rachel not so far away.

“What happened to her?”

For some reason, she looked very haggard. She looked exhausted as though someone had beaten her, and her cadet uniform was tattered.
I ran up to her.

“Rachel-ssi.”

I called her name once she was visible with the naked eye.

“…!”

Rachel jumped even at the slightest noise. Her slender shoulders trembled as she turned her head toward me.

“It’s fine. I’m on the same team.”

“Ah… whew.”

She sighed in relief.
By the looks of it, she seemed to be troubled. I approached her with a thin smile.

“Did something happen? You don’t look well.”

Rachel looked up at me and replied briefly.

“I tried to ambush the enemy but failed.”

“Oh.”

Rachel continued speaking in a weak voice.

“Then I met Kim Suho and lost.”

“…Oh.”

She dropped her head sullenly. However, she wasn’t finished yet.

“I barely ran away from Kim Suho, but Chae Nayun and Yoo Yeonha chased after me…. After I escaped from them, magicians started shooting magic at me….”

Like a tattletale, Rachel recounted what happened with downcast eyes.
Then suddenly, she asked.

“…How many eliminations did Hajin-ssi get?”

“I have none.”

“Ah… I have one.”

Points were given based on the number of artifacts acquired and the number of eliminations. At this rate, both of us would rank near the bottom. Ah, I would be fine since I had an artifact.
In any case, I didn’t mind scoring near the bottom. I only needed to maintain an average grade overall.
But Rachel was different. Her goal was the first place. If she didn’t score well on this artifact scramble, it would be difficult to recover from falling behind.

It seemed she knew this as well, as she stared at the floor with devastated eyes. Then, she kicked a poor rock. The rock flew across the room and hit a wall.
I rummaged through my pocket and spoke.

“We still have time. It’s not over yet.”

Rachel slowly raised her head.
Looking at her, I took out the artifact in my pocket.

“Here. You can have this.”

Rachel eyes immediately opened wide.

“Please carry it upstairs. Rachel-ssi is faster than me.”

“…No, this is yours—”

“Just take it.”

I cut her off before she could refuse. I just felt like helping her out.

“You see that emergency staircase on the right? It should be…”

I examined the emergency staircase with my Thousand-Mile Eyes. A few quick-witted cadets were blocking the way, but they were on the same team as Rachel.

“Fairly empty.”

I smiled as I told her where to go.

“Over there!”

At that moment, a thunderous shout rang out. Chae Nayun and Yoo Yeonha ran in along with other members of Team White.
In the blink of an eye, Rachel and I were faced with enemies.
There were six on their side versus just Rachel and me.
This surprisingly became a drama production.

“…Kim Hajin.”

Chae Nayun pointed her sword at me. Then, she discovered the artifact in Rachel’s hands and widened her eyes.

“Ah, she’s holding an artifact! Who did you steal that from!?”

“Quick, run away. I’ll delay them as long as possible.”

Rachel hesitated, then murmured at my urging.

“…Yes, thank you.”

With that, she ran.
A white team archer shot an arrow at Rachel. ‘Hmph. As if I’ll let that happen.’ I shot a bullet, predicting the trajectory of the arrow. The arrow was struck down by the bullet, and the archer stared at me with a shocked face.

“Junyoung and I will chase Rachel.”

Two cadets from the white team ignored me and tried to chase after Rachel. However…

“No.”

Yoo Yeonha stopped them.

“…Stay on your toes. He’s a tough opponent.”

With that comment, she tightened the grip on her whip.
I looked around the room for a moment. There were plenty of things to grab onto. If it came down to it, I should be able to run away with Parkour.

“What, you want to fight six of us alone? Are you crazy?”

Chae Nayun asked. I shrugged without answering. For now, my goal was to buy time.

“What should we be afraid of? It’s just one guy with a gun! I’m going in!”

Then, suddenly, a warrior wielding an axe charged toward me. I fired several times along the predicted path he would take. With that, I was able to delay his charge for a moment, but Yoo Yeonha’s whip and an archer’s arrow flew toward me even more threateningly.

I activated Bullet Time.
Immediately, my sense of time slowed down. I could clearly see and predict the trajectory of the whip and arrow.
I fired at the arrow and dodged the whip.
However, something unexpected happened.
The archer’s arrow changed course because of my bullet, turning sideways to the chest of the axe-wielding warrior. His HP must have been low from a previous battle as he was eliminated on the spot.

“Ah, fuck! Hey, watch where you’re shoot—”

Before the axe-wielding warrior could finish speaking, he was blindfolded and muzzled. Uuuup, uuuup! It was a bit pitiful how he struggled. But the arrow struck his chest just now, which undoubtedly counted as a critical blow.
Just to be clear, this happened purely by luck.

“He changed the arrow’s trajectory.…”

But Yoo Yeonha seemed to think it was my intention, as she muttered seriously.

**


On the other hand, Rachel safely joined up with other members of the black team with the artifact.

“Rachel stole an artifact!”

Six members of Team Black cheered when they saw Rachel alive, but Rachel was having many complicated thoughts.
Obviously, it was because of Kim Hajin.

“….”

Rachel stared at the artifact in her hand. Kim Hajin had given it to her with a warm smile, and she felt like she could still feel his warmth from it.

“Haa.”

She sighed.

‘I shouldn’t have received it.’

She wasn’t deaf. She knew what kind of rumors Kim Hajin’s actions created, and she had heard about the rumors going around cadets. Until now, she was telling herself that it wasn’t true, that it was only gossip.
But with what happened today, she had to admit that Kim Hajin’s feelings were real.
Thinking about it, she felt she should have noticed it earlier. After he became her teammate, he always stayed near her, whether from a distance or close range…

The countless rumors she heard entered her mind once more.
That Kim Hajin would confess to her, that he would serenade her—
However, Rachel shook off such thoughts.
She felt that she wasn’t in a position to share her feelings with someone. For her country, for her parents, and for the Royal Court guild, she had long since given up on such matters.

…But perhaps, it was all an excuse.
She remembered what her mother and father told her in the past. That when someone she truly loves appears, she would want to be with him even if she had to throw everything away.
But even now, she never felt such a desperate longing.
She didn’t want to give up on the countless values she put before herself.

“…Ah, right!”

In the middle of a deep contemplation, Rachel suddenly remembered that she left Kim Hajin behind. She became frantic. Kim Hajin was currently fighting six people by himself!

“Let’s go! We need to go save someone!”

“Eh? Where are we going?”

“Follow me!”

Rachel ran down to the sixth floor along with the other members of Team Black.

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