Max Talent Player
[Translator – Lei ]
[Proofreader – Ash ]
One hour before the auction, Song Jinchul was completely baffled by his brother.
“Just why in the world are you sticking up for Kim Hyukjin so much?”
When talking to his brother, Jinchul sometimes used informal speech, sometimes formal speech. He flip-flopped between the two depending on his mood. Today, he was speaking casually, which meant he wasn’t in a good mood. He had been in a prickly one ever since he was struck on the head by Vela and was unable to vent his rage.
Kiyeol stared at his baby brother. A little brother wasn’t strictly required to speak formally to his older brother and it wasn’t even weird for brothers to speak casually to one another, but Kiyeol was a little angered by it today.
“You’re still not shaping up even after getting punished so much?”
“Because I can’t accept the reason why I was punished!”
Jinchul didn’t think he could accept it in the future, either. Just how amazing could a Player possibly be? Who was Kim Hyukjin, to make someone of the mighty Sungshin bloodline tiptoe around him?
“Grandpa said we're the ruling class. But why’re you acting like you’re part of the ruled class, Hyung?”
“I don’t think the rulers Grandpa was talking about are the rulers you think they are.”
Jinchul was twisting the ‘ruler’ concept their grandfather had spoken of.
“Doesn’t matter!” Jinchul bit his lip. “You even got a list of the things we have to buy in this auction. Like you’re his frickin’ butler.”
Why did the oldest son of Sungshin need to do as Kim Hyukjin said? Why did he have to follow Kim Hyukjin’s orders instead of making his own decisions? That was what Jinchul had a problem with.
“This is a collaboration.”
“You think I’m stupid? Kim Hyukjin’s using Sungshin’s money to get rich without putting in any investment of his own!”
“Is that a bad thing?”
Jinchul’s mouth snapped shut. Kiyeol quietly persuaded his childish little brother.
“Kim Hyukjin will use my money to secure a commission. That’s a definite fact. And I will use his information to earn money. He will provide information, and I will provide the funds. What’s wrong with that?”
“We’d do perfectly fine even without his stinky information!”
“Of course. We’d probably be fine, yes.”
Kiyeol didn’t think he had a bad eye. He was sure he would be able to buy items he needed, items that would be profitable, important items he could later use to trade with the world’s Rankers and wealthy gathered here. He was confident of that.
“But Guildmaster Kim Hyukjin is better than me.” Kiyeol was a good judge of his own ability. “What’s wrong with securing a profit by entrusting an expert to do what he does well?”
“But it’s not costing him a single penny. He’s just scooping up the returns without any risk. How does that make any sense to you, Hyung?”
Kiyeol breathed a long sigh and continued explaining.
“The only thing I have to consider is whether it’s more profitable for me to participate in the auction alone, or more profitable for me to participate in the auction with Guildmaster Kim’s information. The process? The reason? How are those things important? The results will speak for themselves.”
“I think what you’re saying is cowardly reasoning, Hyung. I’ll prove to you that you’re wrong on my own.”
“You will? How?”
“I have some allowance saved up.”
Kiyeol had a good idea of how much that was. It couldn’t be more than $500,000.
“I have $1 million at my disposal.”
“You’re surprised, right? I took what I got from Grandpa and grew it to a million.”
Jinchul was 14 years old. For an eighth grader to take $500,000 and turn it into $1 million was an impressive feat. Of course, Jinchul couldn’t have done it on his own—he was probably helped by a financial manager assigned to him by their grandfather. Kiyeol pretended not to know that.
“You did well there.”
“I’m capable of doing this well on my own. Even without listening to that rude prick.” Jinchul continued, brimming with confidence. “Let’s make a bet. To see who can get the higher return rate.”
“You want to bet on who gets the higher net gain compared to the invested amount?”
“Yeah. I’m confident.”
‘It’s not a bad thing for him to experience it for himself.’
Experience just how outstanding Kim Hyukjin was, at least when it came to Playing. Jinchul had to get a little taste to at least somewhat acknowledge Kim Hyukjin.
“You can only invest in the things Kim Hyukjin listed. I’ll invest in other things.”
“What will the winner get?”
“If I win, end your partnership with Kim Hyukjin. I can’t crush him because of you.”
Kiyeol was so dumbfounded he had to laugh.
‘You can’t crush him because of me?’
Can’t crush Kim Hyukjin, a talent even their grandfather valued? A monster of a human who, though unnoticed in the public eye, went around trampling top Rankers worldwide?
‘When will you see clearly, little brother?’
He had to make Jinchul see straight, even if Kiyeol needed to beat the sense into him. But now that the kid was a teenager in his rebellious phase, Kiyeol found himself unable to use such an extreme method.
‘And Guildmaster Kim Hyukjin told me to let him be.’
There was definitely a reason for that. Kiyeol decided to let his little brother be, for now.
“Fine. In exchange, if I win, you’ll speak to Guildmaster Kim Hyukjin with utmost respect.”
“Don’t like the terms?”
“I’m part of the ruling class.”
“How can the ruling class show utmost respect to the ruled class?”
“Don’t think you can win?”
“No, I’m sure I can win. Okay, fine. Heh. If you win, I’ll treat Kim Hyukjin with respect!”
Jinchul didn’t tell his brother that he had an innate ability called ‘Discernment’. He was sure he could choose more outstanding items than Kim Hyukjin while spending less if he used the ability.
‘Just you wait and see.’
Song Jinchul jumped into a war with his 8th grader pride on the line.
* * *
Translator - Lei
Proofreader - Ash
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* * *
Kim Hyukjin, Song Kiyeol, and Song Jinchul sat down next to each other.
The LA Auction House Michelle was hosting looked like a musical theater. Quite a lot of people were seated in the hall, and below them, preparations for the auction were well underway.
The auctioneer was someone who would later become famous in the auction scene, Hans.
“We will now begin the auction.”
Kim Hyukjin looked around. There were people wearing masks to hide their identities, as well as people who were openly showing their faces.
He also saw some big shot Rankers.
The Milky Way.
The Ink Sword.
The Stealthy Slayer.
The Corpse Sorcerer.
The Mist at Dawn.
Hyukjin felt a rush of emotion as he looked at the future Rankers with all sorts of nicknames gathered in one place.
‘I only ever saw them on TV.’
The top Rankers Hyukjin knew from the future were already top Rankers now. That did make him feel a little bitter. These people were the ones graced with talent, the ones who were born with the blessed ability to adapt all too well to this new age.
‘Well, there’s no such thing as equality in this world.’
Everyone was born with different appearances, even. The world was not equal. It was the uncomfortable, but honest truth. Before his regression, Hyukjin was also not graced by talent and lived an aimless, meaningless life.
He suddenly noticed Song Jinchul sitting two seats away.
‘Just like how that spoiled brat is living the high life because he was born to the right grandfather.’
He was struck with the same sense of dizziness again.
‘A factor in a major variable.’
Why did he get this strange feeling whenever he looked at Song Jinchul? Hyukjin had no idea.
The auction began in earnest. The first item came in the shape of a flute.
Song Kiyeol said, “We will pass on this one.”
“Yes.” Some fairly useless items were being auctioned as well. Hyukjin pointed with his eyes and said, “Over there. Do you see that man wearing the black clothes with the tiger pattern?”
“Yes, I see him. That’s Xu Xin from China.”
“Don’t go for the items he bids on.”
“That man is a manic collector.”
It would be odd if China’s Xu Xin were to be absent here. He wasn’t a Player. He was invited here on account of his wealth. With his real estate and logistics conglomerates, he was one of the ten most wealthy people on Earth.
Hyukjin felt his mood sour. There was no real reason why. It was the first time he got this impression from someone since Seo Joohwan.
TN: Seo Joohwan is the pedophile Hyukjin killed way back.
‘Come to think of it, the world really is unfair.’
Xu Xin of China had the nickname ‘Manic Hoarder’.
Manic hoarder: A person with a pathological drive to find and collect not just valuable things, but also useless things.
Even though he wasn’t a Player, he had a nickname like that, a telltale indication of just how crazy a hoarder he was.
‘He also bought a ton of items.’
Any item that went into his hands would be locked forevermore in the ‘Xu Xin Exhibition Hall’, never to see the light of day again.
‘If he had lent the [Mermaid’s Bottle] to the public during the Beijing Megadrought scenario, at least 300,000 wouldn’t have died.’
Not just that.
‘100,000 people would have survived if the Players had the [Shining with Moonlight] when hunting the One-Eyed Giant.’
It wasn’t a bad thing for someone to not lend others their items. That was their right as the owner of the item. It was great if they lent them for the public good, and if they didn’t, it couldn’t be helped. Hyukjin knew that, too. It was the natural way of things and something he shouldn’t criticize, but for some reason, Hyukjin felt displeasure surge through him.
Why did he feel displeasure? Hyukjin tried figuring out the reason, unconsciously becoming engrossed in his musing.
‘It was widely rumored… that he killed a poor girl and stole the Mermaid’s Bottle from her.’
Whether that was true or not could not be confirmed. There were suspicions, but no proof to back it up.
‘I even heard he slaughtered a village to steal the Shining with Moonlight.’
Many cursed him as a bastard worthy of divine retribution, but Xu Xin lived high on the hog with zero repercussions. But was he feeling so repulsed because of such rumors? Hyukjin didn’t know.
From somewhat far away, Hyukjin observed Xu Xin a little more.
‘Interesting. He was actually a Player?’
He was like CEO Song. Despite his advanced age, he awakened as a Player. Right here in this hall, Xu Xin was sitting as a Player, a fact he had never revealed.
Manic Hoarder Blinded by Greed
That wasn’t all—he had also awakened an innate ability, one that was very rare to the public but often encountered by Rankers.
Innate ability: Thief Tracking
Hyukjin kept staring at Xu Xin.
Their eyes met. Despite the considerable distance between them, Xu Xin looked this way. He had the feeling their eyes definitely met.
‘I’m not just imagining it.’
That meant he had sensed Hyukjin’s gaze on him. Hyukjin felt something like an itch. When their eyes met, his heart felt itchy, a feeling he had experienced several times.
There was no need to cower because Xu Xin had noticed him. Hyukjin did not fear him at all. Things were so very different from the past. He ramped Observer’s Eye to the max, knowing from experience that he would see something at times like this. Something more.
[Observer’s Eye recognizes countless ‘stigmata’.]
His eyes ached a little, but it was bearable.
[Observer’s Eye begins to recognize/interpret the stigmata.]
[You have fulfilled a new condition.]
[The proficiency of Observer’s Eye has increased.]
Observer’s Eye went up to proficiency 3, and with it, he began to see the previously unseen.
He saw it—the stigma engraved on Xu Xin’s body. He began to faintly see what the Demon King and Bufafa had talked about. But it wasn’t an ordinary stigma.
[Observer’s Eye is analyzing the ‘corrupted stigma’.]
‘What… is this?’
New things began to unfold before Hyukjin’s eyes.
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