In a mansion lit by a dim lamp, a man was sitting on a chair reading a newspaper.
Objectively speaking, he was handsome. He had sharp, well-defined facial features that shone beautifully under the light, and his somewhat displeased expression gave him a heavy atmosphere.
Soon, he dropped his head with a troubled sigh.
At that moment, the door on the opposite side of the room shot open, and a girl wearing a leather jacket stomped in.
"What, did something happen?"
Murmuring mockingly, she sat down next to him and sneered.
"Did you blow all your money on gambling again?"
"…Yeah. Anyways, Sahyuk, now there's only a little scar on your forehead. It's barely noticeable."
The man retorted calmly at the girl's mocking tone. The girl reacted angrily.
"You know, where that kid's coin hit you? I remember you furiously trying to wash it off."
The memory of that day flashed by the girl's eyes.
Although three months had passed since then, fury and humiliation surged within her whenever she thought about it. As disgrace was something she never experienced before, it remained in her mind vividly.
"Don't make me remember it."
The girl, Jin Sahyuk, gritted her teeth and admonished the man. However, it seemed the man had no plans to listen to her warning.
"You should have never let it happen. Like I always say, you shouldn't overestimate yourself."
Tak. The man put down the newspaper in his hands. Jin Sahyuk glared at the man without paying attention to the crumpling sound of the newspaper.
"Sahyuk, don't misunderstand. You're still a rookie, someone I can kill with a flick of a finger."
Hearing this, Jin Sahyuk's eyebrows twitched. She forced herself to twist up the corners of her lips and spoke fearlessly.
"Then try it."
The man's eyes flickered coldly.
Jin Sahyuk repeated.
"Try killing me."
As expected, she was reckless.
Without a choice, the man closed his eyes and backed off with a smile.
"Sorry, I was a bit on edge today."
Hearing his surrender, Jin Sahyuk seemed to have been appeased somewhat, but she soon brought up the topic again.
"…I can win if I fight him again."
"That's what you think."
"I was just underestimating him."
"So you lost to a single coin?"
Jin Sahyuk shut her mouth. She couldn't think of any way to refute him.
Three months ago, that bearded man had used only a single coin to push her back and leave a deep mark on her forehead. She still found it hard to believe that a coin could have such destructive power. The mark she received didn't go away for a month, making her too embarrassed to even go outside.
At that moment, a woman came into the room with food.
"Are you not feeling well today?"
The woman called the man Bell.
Bell grinned in response.
"I'm just mad at myself. An important matter went awry, but I only just found out. It seems I stayed in Pandemonium for too long."
He tapped on the newspaper in front of him. The woman stared at the content of the newspaper and murmured.
"Chae Jinyoon's death… what's this?"
"Just a little something-something. He was supposed to be alive, but someone killed him."
Jin Sahyuk stared at Bell, then shot up as she pushed her long hair behind her.
"Where are you going?"
"To the arena."
"What, you got a problem with that?"
"If you do, then let me fight those guys."
Ever since she suffered defeat at the hands of that bearded man, Jin Sahyuk has been throwing tantrums about wanting to go fight the two men.
Kim Suho and Kim Hajin.
It seemed she wanted to pay back the humiliation she suffered. However, Bell had no intention of giving her permission. As far as he was concerned, Kim Suho and Kim Hajin were two crucial pieces needed to perfect Jin Sahyuk in the future.
Although he only had Kim Suho in mind at first, another one ended up appearing by pure chance.
"Like I said, I don't have a problem with it. Go to the arena and have fun. But it won't be any of my business if you meet Satan's Servants and get beaten up."
They were the rank 1 organization in Pandemonium. All 33 members of their organization were contracted to the infamous devil 'Satan'. It wasn't an exaggeration to say that Pandemonium's laws and rules were maintained by their overwhelming strength.
Jin Sahyuk left the mansion silently.
The world outside was filled with the smell of alcohol and blood and sights of pleasure and entertainment.
Jin Sahyuk walked to the center of Pandemonium.
As she walked, she reminded herself of what happened.
Although it angered her whenever she thought about it, it was something she needed to do to not forget.
The power behind the coin.
The lightning-like force of the coin.
Without a doubt, he was a powerful opponent.
Just like Kim Suho, someone worthy of staying in her mind had appeared.
Wondering how strong he would get in the future, Jin Sahyuk put her hands over her face and shuddered.
I want to fight.
No, I want to kill.
I want to tear his limbs apart and kill him.
Her body shook from a powerful urge.
A peaceful afternoon one week before the start of school.
Essential Armory's employee personally came to my apartment with a black envelope and a box.
The box should have the armor I asked for, but I wasn't sure what the envelope was about.
Once I brought the packages inside, I first opened the envelope.
Inside was a black card.
[Essential Armory Special VIP card]
There was a letter to go along with it.
[If there's anything you need, you can ask the armory directly without going through me. It's the same card that I use so there shouldn't be a limit.
P.S. The card can be used for other businesses owned by Essence of the Strait.]
Yoo Yeonha's handwriting was a work of art.
"…Now isn't this abuse of power?"
I smiled bitterly. Even after suffering from an arrogation scandal, she had only gotten bolder. Did I help her too early?
But well, I couldn't complain about such a nice gift.
I put the card in my wallet and opened the box. As I expected, it had the armor I asked for.
[Magic Crystal Armor] [Masterpiece]
[Charged Mana 2000/2000]
—Physical Body Reinforcement
*Increases stamina, vitality, and speed by 0.3 points.
—Intermediate-rank Durability Reinforcement
*Absorbs damage equivalent to charged mana.
*Installed with a body scanner. Can be worn by non-human beings.
This wasn't a wearable armor. It was a high-tech armor that projected armor to fit the body. Armors that weren't partial artifacts couldn't compare to it whatsoever. Still, it wasn't perfectly to my liking.
I added a setting.
[The stat increase is tripled when equipped by a non-human target.]
The SP cost was 150. The word 'non-human' was perfect for bringing down the cost.
I summoned Fenrir who was sleeping in my chest.
When a tiger-sized wolf suddenly appeared out of thin air, Hayang raised her tail and ran away.
"Ah! It's my wolf. Hehe."
On the other hand, Evandel smiled brightly and approached the wolf.
The wolf blissfully enjoyed Evandel's small and soft hands.
"Fenrir, try wearing this."
I placed the circular armor on the wolf's chest and infused magic power into it. Immediately, an armor shot up, covering the wolf's chest and back. He seemed to be satisfied with it, as he growled happily.
It was then.
My smartwatch suddenly rang.
It wasn't just once.
My wrist kept shaking from the repeated buzzing.
[You obtain 144 SP.]
[Magic power of rage and obsession has formed a spell in a distant place. You have been selected as a 'target'.]
[However, a miraculous luck strikes!]
[A mysterious power reverses the spell!]
[An unknown person's Gift, 'Targeting', has been changed to benefit Kim Hajin!]
[Narrow Escape from Death (4/9) - A special stat, accumulation of luck, becomes partly unlocked!]
Why did my SP go up, and what was with this 'Target'?
Did I come up with a Gift like this?
Although I wasn't sure what was going on, I couldn't complain about my accumulation of luck going up.
"…Ah, is it him?"
Then, I suddenly remembered.
The guy named Heuk Jeon from Dark Moon Society who tried to kill me and Rachel during the final exam.
It seemed he tried to cast some curse on me.
"…I'll tell Boss about it later."
"It's really over…"
Time flew by, and tonight was Chae Nayun's final night on Baekdu Mountain.
As she opened her bag to pack her belongings, Chae Nayun looked around the room she stayed in for two months. Although she didn't bring much with her, there were many precious items in this room.
They were the photos lined up on the shelf next to her bed.
On one photo, Chae Nayun and Chae Jinyoon were smiling together brightly.
Chae Nayun held up the frame carrying the photo and lightly caressed it.
Then, she suddenly felt something surge within her.
"…This time, I thought you'd stay with me forever."
Murmuring with a trembling voice, she held the frame in her embrace.
Reality still felt like a dream.
She thought multiple times that her older brother would be waiting for her in his hospital bed when she ended her training and came home.
She regretted it every night and faulted herself every night.
She couldn't help but think that he would still be alive if she refused to go to Baekdu Mountain and stayed with him.
Even after all this time, she couldn't help but cry.
Chae Nayun quickly wiped the tears off her face.
"Wait just a little bit, Oppa."
Then, she put the frame in her bag.
"I'll get your revenge."
She muttered with a strong determination.
Two days before Cube's 2nd year began, I came back to Cube to pick up my belongings.
"Here you go, Cadet Kim Hajin."
I received my stuff from the dorm manager. I surprisingly had a lot on me: VR gaming set, shirts, coats, jeans, slacks, etc.
With a big box in my arms, I walked to the Portal.
Then suddenly, I heard a familiar voice.
Looking up, I saw Rachel.
…After meeting coincidentally, we stopped by the park we often trained in.
The grass still had signs of Rachel trying to call elementals. Rachel smiled bashfully and hopped to that spot.
"I got hit with lots of bullets here… I can't believe that was three months ago."
"I feel the same way."
I put the box down on the ground.
Only then did Rachel look at me with curious eyes.
"What is that box for?"
I smiled bitterly even at her light question.
I scratched the back of my neck as I muttered.
"I'm going to drop out of Cube."
Rachel widened her eyes.
"Well, I'm more comfortable becoming a mercenary."
Rachel muttered in shock.
"I'll stay here for the first semester. Ah, well, I guess I'm leaving in the middle. But I should be here until the midterms."
There was a reason I had to stay in Cube.
The final main story element in Cube. I needed to stay here and watch 'that incident' unfold.
"Then, um, Hajin-ssi… about the English Royal Court guild…."
"I won't be able to go. Sorry."
Rachel made a sad face. I never said I'd go to the English Royal Court guild. What was she imagining?
"But who knows? We might work together with something like a mercenary partnership."
Mercenary partnership. Simply put, it was a way to get more manpower for conquering Dungeons or Towers.
"Ah… Hajin-ssi is always welcome… but because a partnership is done with the entire mercenary group…."
However, because the number of mercenaries groups that were stronger than a guild could be counted on two hands, even small guilds rarely formed mercenary partnerships.
I could understand why Rachel was hesitant, as the English Royal Court guild was the number one guild in England.
Of course, the name of the mercenary group I was in would change everything.
This seemingly lame name was always the one choosing guilds.
"You can worry about that when the time comes."
"Ah, yes, you're right."
Rachel smiled bitterly and scratched her cheek. I stared at her for a moment, then took out the cadet handgun I kept in my pocket.
"Since it's been a while, should I help you train?"
"Yes? Ah, kuhum."
She coughed proudly.
"Yes, let's do it. I'll show you how much I improved."
Springtime arrived with the falling of cherry blossoms.
Currently, I was standing in front of my new classroom. I wasn't particularly nervous. In fact, I was quite apathetic to the whole thing.
The name of the class was Sacred Flame. Rachel, Yoo Yeonha, and Yi Yeonghan were in my class.
Chae Nayun should be in Kim Suho's class, and Shin Jonghak should be in a class by himself.
I opened the classroom door.
There were three familiar faces. Well, since one was sleeping, I couldn't see his face.
The sleeping one was Yi Yeonghan. Yoo Yeonha was already surrounded by many cadets. Without Chae Nayun or Kim Suho in her class, Yoo Yeonha would reign as its queen.
When Yoo Yeonha met my eyes, she smiled and waved her hand. It seemed she didn't mind interacting with me openly now that my ranking was near the top 100.
Along with a greeting, Yoo Yeonha moved her mouth silently.
—Nayun is asking why you aren't replying.
I gave her a little smile and sat down at the back of the class.
Rachel, who was also sitting in the back, greeted me.
I returned her greeting with a smile.
When it became 8:00 exactly, the door shot open, and the instructor walked in.
"It's great to see you, ladies and gentlemen."
The enthusiastic instructor released his magic power into the air.
Yi. Yeong. Jin.
His red magic power displayed his name clearly.
"I am Sacred Flame class' chief instructor, Yi Yeongjin."
I carefully listened to the male instructor's excited introduction.
"From second year and onwards, classes will be held a bit differently. I'm sure you all know about it, but I'll give a brief explanation."
Cherry blossoms fluttered through the opened windows, and an aromatic scent flowed in.
"Other than the morning class, end-of-the-day class, and the two 'common classes', all cadets will be trained according to the schedule they formed."
I didn't have many days left in Cube.
There were plenty of painful, sad, and complicated matters, but when I thought back to Cube in the future, I was sure I would be able to say I had fun.
"Our common class is joint stamina training. You will need to get into groups of four for this training."
After this short yet long period, I would disappear from Cube.