Hyukjin raised his finger on purpose, as if he were going to do something. As if… he were going to use magic. He pointed his finger at Song Kiyeol and called out, "Bang!"
Kiyeol flinched, and Observer’s Eye captured the mana moving urgently in his body.
‘That’s the energy of a tank.’
Hyukjin couldn’t put how it differed in words; he just felt it instinctively. That was the energy of a tank, an energy with a focus on defense. That energy covered the Guildmaster’s body, and Hyukjin had the feeling it was especially concentrated on the forehead.
A cheeky voice came from behind Hyukjin.
"Heh. Fooled ya, huh?"
It was Choi Sung-gu. His flame whip was making another appearance. The magic was moving significantly more smoothly than before, an indication that his cooperation with Sunghyun had become much more natural.
Hyukjin’s finger was a fake.
"Shabam! Fiery Flame~ Whip~!"
Sung-gu and Sunghyun’s fusion magic, Flame Whip, smashed down on Shin Kangha.
"Take this! Gooooo!"
Flames raged on Shin Kangha’s body.
Hyukjin read Kiyeol’s mental state.
State: Panic / Mentally Groggy
In order to properly block a spell from two mages who had been quietly preparing all this time, you would need the tank Kiyeol, or Gilsup or Sooji would have to attack the mages.
‘Gilsup is injured. Sooji is being marked by Sunhwa and Yeonseo.’
That left Song Kiyeol as the best person to block the spell, but he was completely tricked by Hyukjin’s fake out.
Hyukjin didn’t think the spell alone was enough to kill Shin Kangha.
‘With his defense, he’ll be able to survive it.’
Sure enough, Kangha’s body started to transform.
‘Morph enhancement Player.’
Sand wrapped all around his body, and it looked like he had become a sand person. He clearly took a lot of damage from the Flame Whip, but being injured didn’t seem to restrict his movements as much as it did with Gilsup.
Hyukjin saw Han Seokmin’s mouth moving.
‘He’s probably telling his guild members what he analyzed with his special ability.’
Basically, they were doing something like a guild chat. But that was fine.
‘Because I’m much higher rank than Han Seokmin.’
There was no need to keep him in check. Taeguk Shield would be famous in the future, but they were still complete beginners to a GVG like this. No matter how outstanding their talent might be, they couldn’t be perfect at something from the very start. Actually, rather than saying that Taeguk Shield was bad at this, it was more accurate to say that Hyukjin was simply doing too well. He was the odd one for being so proficient when it was also his first time.
Shin Kangha shouted, "Die!"
A massive fist of sand, a magic attack capable of dealing quite a lot of damage, surged into the sky.
Hyukjin stood quietly in place and stared at the sand fist without a hint of urgency. As a sovereign, he didn’t look daunted in the least.
‘The attack target is me.’
He simply watched. After all, their side had an amazing tank.
A shield glowing with white light formed above Sunhwa’s right hand. Kangha’s sand fist crashed into Sunhwa’s shield and streamed to the ground as formless grains of sand.
Meanwhile, Yeonseo killed Gilsup and Yoohyun smashed Seokmin’s head in. The result of the GVG was all too obvious.
Kiyeol’s body trembled.
‘This isn’t just an ordinary difference in skill…’
He had to acknowledge the glaring truth in front of him.
‘It’s an overwhelming difference in skill.’
They were strong, so strong that Taeguk Shield should be the ones begging to cooperate. He was experiencing that with every cell of his body. Experiencing something personally was completely different from knowing something.
‘This is for the best.’
His primary goal was indeed accomplished as planned. He just hadn’t thought that they would be so overwhelmingly steamrolled even though they had done their best.
Hyukjin patted Kiyeol’s shoulder.
"Today is the last time I will offer you trade conditions as an equivalent partner."
"Seize the opportunity, Guildmaster Song Kiyeol." Coming closer, Hyukjin whispered very quietly in Kiyeol’s ear, "I will prop up Taeguk Shield as Korea’s heroes, as Korea’s greatest guild. I will make it so that you can take the lead in propelling the new tech wave."
This was the last opportunity.
Kiyeol had a gut feeling. If he failed to grasp this opportunity, Kim Hyukjin would give up on him. He would probably seek another guild to work with. It was possible that the next chance might be given to Kiyeol’s younger sister, Song Junghye.
The person who would surely shape the future… was Kim Hyukjin.
"...It’s our loss. I acknowledge our defeat."
* * *
Translator - Lei
Proofreader - Ash
Join our Discord for updates on releases! /p> * * *
* * *
Song Kiyeol trudged out the elevator.
‘What do I tell Grandfather?’
Three hours prior, up until the GVG started, Kiyeol never doubted that it would be a well-matched fight. Their opponents might have named Players like the ‘Tutorial Ender’, but he was confident there wouldn’t be a huge difference in skill between the individual Players.
That was a miscalculation.
‘To think there was this much of a gap…’
As he headed to his grandfather’s office, his steps became as heavy as lead. It wasn’t like he failed to predict defeat, but it was also true that defeat was a bitter pill to swallow.
"Well, then. What are your thoughts after meeting Kim Hyukjin?" asked President Song, his hands laced together on his desk.
"He absolutely does not seem like he is 20 years old."
President Song nodded. He had thought the same. The gaze and aura he’d noticed from Hyukjin was not something that could possibly come from a 20-year-old kid. His ability to manipulate the board was also outstanding, so much so that Kiyoung wanted the man as his hunting dog.
‘No. He’s not a hunting dog.’
Kiyoung had thought so before, but not anymore. Kim Hyukjin was not merely a hunting dog. If he had been born as one of Kiyoung’s sons or grandsons, he might have become the ruler of Korea. That was how highly Kiyoung thought of him.
"It seems to me that you having a guild vs. guild match with Kim Hyukjin… was planned from the start."
"I get the feeling Player Kim Hyukjin crafted the current situation step by step, starting all the way from his participation in the Players Convention."
Song Kiyeol nodded at that. It really stung his pride, but he still analyzed the situation with a cool head.
"I believe there’s a high possibility of that being the case."
"Hooh. You acknowledge it?"
President Song looked at his grandson with a look of slight surprise. Kiyeol looked like he wasn’t that displeased by the fact that he had been dancing in his opponent’s palm, something that would have angered and wounded anyone’s pride. President Song was inwardly satisfied to see it.
"Kim Hyukjin crushed us with an overwhelming difference in skill. He had us completely figured out and analyzed what we would do before the fight even started."
It was embarrassing to admit, but Kiyeol judged that nothing good would come of hiding things from his grandfather. His grandfather was someone who forgave mistakes and failures, but not lies.
"As a result, the guild members of Taeguk Shield, including me, were pushed into a situation where we had no choice but to acknowledge him."
Skills proved everything. That was likely what Kim Hyukjin wanted from the start.
"The non-combat class Kim Hyukjin’s movements… were truly beyond imagination."
"Was that all?"
"No, sir. His analysis was far more outstanding than the tactician on our side, Han Seokmin."
"The fusion magic of Jo Sunghyun and Choi Sung-gu… had me honestly intimidated."
He was honest about everything. Being intimidated wasn’t something to be ashamed of. It was natural to feel that way in front of someone far stronger than yourself. The important thing was what you learned from it, what you gained from it, that you didn’t just wallow in defeat. Kiyeol was well aware that that was what his grandfather wanted to see from him right now.
"Was it a big spell?"
"Yes, I believe so. They didn’t do anything in the beginning."
"I see. Kim Hyukjin’s team must have bought them time to use that fusion magic."
President Song nodded. "They intentionally bought time to be able to use a big spell."
They’d had the leisure to do so. In other words—
"They could have easily defeated you even without a big spell like that."
And yet, they used a flashy and strong spell.
"It must have been a completely calculated move to break your spirits."
"...Yes. I think so."
"You said Jo Sunghyun and Choi Sung-gu met for the first time at the Players Convention, yes?"
"The fact they could show a cooperative Play of that level must mean that Kim Hyukjin had them practice beforehand."
"Which means he must have been preparing for today ever since the Hill of Blowing Wind. For the climax today."
Song Kiyoung stared at his grandson for a moment. He saw that Kiyeol was biting his lip, unable to conceal a little anger.
He was well and properly stimulated by Hyukjin, a man ten years his junior. If he could apply this stimulus in a positive direction, his grandson would be able to become a far greater person.
"Kim Hyukjin has already gathered teammates of that level and is nurturing them into their respective roles. Do you acknowledge that?"
"Not only that, but he chose to put you guys in the front and operate in the back. I’m sure he intends on avoiding the public’s excessive attention while garnering the actual profits. That will also greatly free up his movements. Then, by once again showing his overwhelming skills to other people of skill, he will reign as a skilled Player among Players."
That wasn’t all.
"And by choosing to cooperate with you, he will also get access to Sungshin’s support."
President Song smiled faintly without realizing it. 20 years old. He was only 20 years old. A 20-year-old created this picture and was thinking of taking only the good and leaving others to deal with the bad. It was almost chilling. And because it was chilling, President Song was delighted.
"Learn from his discernment. People are the greatest resources. Learn from his mindset. You will gain much from working with him."
Kiyeol was inwardly shocked. His grandfather never encouraged learning from someone.
Kim Hyukjin… was that amazing? A 20-year-old was that amazing in his grandfather’s eyes? It stung his pride, but stubborn determination reared its head in him regardless.
‘I’ll learn what there is to learn.’
He would maintain a public system of cooperation with Kim Hyukjin, and learn everything he could learn. He believed that was his ticket to personal growth.
"While learning from Kim Hyukjin, I will fully cooperate with him to advance the new tech project."
Kiyeol didn’t forget to make his aspirations clear.
"One day, I will surpass Kim Hyukjin and lead Sungshin into the future."
* * *
Sunhwa wasn’t all that talkative when other people were around, but when it was just the two of us, she tended to talk a little more. I wasn’t sure if it was because of puberty, or because she was a shy girl by nature. In any case, she was noisier when it was just us.
We got out of the taxi and started walking home, going through the large park we had to cross to reach the apartment building.
"Oppa. Before you distributed roles to us earlier..."
"You heard another notice, right?"
Did it show? Well, it wasn’t something I was trying to hide, anyway. I told her the truth.
"Yeah. You know I have a title called First Pioneer, yeah?"
"That was upgraded to Pioneer of Victory."
"Really? Is that really awesome then? Even better than fried chicken?"
"It’s almost on par with fried chicken."
"Woah. It’s huge then."
I grinned in spite of myself. By clearing the linked hidden piece, ‘Pioneer who Seized the First Victory’, I was able to get the new title ‘Pioneer of Victory’.
[Pioneer of Victory]
A glorious title given to one who pioneered a new domain and seized the first victory in a new domain.
All party members +20% EXP
Stacks with other titles.
Stacks with other effects (buffs/debuffs).
As soon as Sunhwa heard the title effects, her eyes grew round. She blinked in visible awe.
"Wow… Oppa. Does that mean as long as we’re in a party with you, we also get extra EXP?"
"Yep. But you have to stay within a certain distance."
It added wings to the Observer class that could rake in EXP even while sipping tea. No matter who it was, they could get 20% more EXP simply by Playing with me.
‘It’ll shine especially bright in the 30-40 period.’
An EXP buff, and one that applied to the entire party and could stack unconditionally with any effect, was an effect anyone and everyone would go crazy for.
"With an effect like that, it really is on par with fried chicken."
"Oh yeah, oppa. Did you get something from that pretty unnie?"
"Yeah. I got a special poison item called Rot Water."
"Dunno what that is, but it sounds weird."
"Does it?" I tousled Sunhwa’s hair. "Let’s just go in and get some chicken."
I took a look at Sunhwa’s state. Her face was flushed with excitement.
State: Happy / Proud / Joyous
Me getting something good was a source of happiness and joy for her too. It was amazing. We didn’t share a single drop of blood, but it felt like I really got a sister. Her happiness was infectious.
This joy, I would protect it.
Or more accurately, she would protect me.